The 2021 FFAR Vet Fellows include:
University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine
The Center for Animal Health and Food Safety at the University of Minnesota developed an event-based biosurveillance system that helps prevent the introduction of foreign pathogens into the US by gathering and analyzing data on environmental health sources. Nguyen is evaluating the impact of this system and contrasting its sensitivity to other global surveillance systems used for monitoring emerging animal diseases.
University of Missouri
Anaplasma and Babesia are tick-borne bacteria in cattle that can cause severe anemia in livestock. These pathogen-caused diseases can impact ranchers’ livelihoods and nutritional security globally. Keller’s work aims to better understand cattle’s immune response to ticks, with the goal of identifying molecules that may be ideal vaccine candidates for blocking pathogen transmission.
Michigan State University
Livestock are exposed to a multitude of environmental and social stressors, which impact health, wellbeing and performance. Early weaning (EW) in swine production is linked with increased disease risk and reduced performance over the pig’s lifetime. How EW practices lead to long-term disease vulnerability is unknown and targeted interventions are lacking. Garcia’s research is examining whether EW pigs’ immune systems exhibit stress-induced glucose use, which could drive inflammation and increased disease risk.
Texas A&M University
Nontyphoidal salmonella infections, caused by the bacterium Salmonella enterica, are a significant public health problem in the US. Characterized by symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, nontyphoidal salmonella infections can spread to humans who eat contaminated animal products. Burleson is using droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) technology, a technique that partitions nucleic acid samples into thousands of droplets and amplifies DNA or RNA targets, to detect and quantify antimicrobial resistance genes in nontyphoidal Salmonella enterica from cattle fecal samples. This work helps researchers better understand antimicrobial resistance in animals and the environment.
Mississippi State University, College of Veterinary Medicine
Macrophages are specialized immune cells that detect and respond to harmful bacteria. Knight is analyzing whether exposure to beta-glucans boost macrophage function in fish to achieve immunity equivalent to vaccination. Knight is using next generation sequencing, a technique that reads DNA sequences in small fragments and reassembles them to create a complete sequence, to evaluate gene expressions that strengthen immunity. Methods to boost innate immunity can enhance disease resistance, improving animal health and production efficiency.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Influenza A virus (swine flu) is an endemic pathogen of pigs that can cause significant illness and is difficult to control. Wangler’s research seeks to develop a rapid, low-cost test to determine the presence of influenza A in swine herds, enabling appropriate disease control interventions.
North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine
Salmonellosis is an infection of the digestive tract caused by the bacterium Salmonella enterica that can cause illness in cattle and humans. Neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, causes inflammation that can enable salmonella to colonize the digestive tract. Brown is assessing how blocking a host protein that regulates neutrophil function will alter salmonella-induced neutrophil inflammatory functions. This research is determining if the host protein is a viable therapeutic target for combating tissue damage resulting from diseases like salmonellosis.
Western University of Health Science
Administering enzyme supplements in poultry is a longstanding practice thought to increase meat and egg production. Guan is evaluating enzymes that break down non-starch polysaccharides (NSPases), complex carbohydrates that that can improve energy use and feed efficiency of broiler chickens. An Aspergillus spp. known to produce these NSPases were fed to a group of chickens in addition to the purified enzyme. Guan is evaluating how purified NSPases and Aspergillus-produced NSPases impact the gut microbiome, research that could improve animal performance without the use of antibiotics.
University of Pennsylvania
Food production in West Africa relies on rain-fed agriculture, which is a challenge considering climate change, informal and sometimes unreliable markets and competition with imported food products. Strategies to reduce production and economic risks can improve financial returns for smallholder farmers. Carpenter is creating a model for poultry production that captures poultry health, nutrition, biosecurity and commercial sales, as well as related financial projections for testing, at a teaching and research farm in The Gambia.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Imaging technology and artificial intelligence may predict mammary gland (responsible for milk production) growth and milk production of heifers, female calves, prior to their first lactation. Jantzen is further developing a radio frequency identification (RFID)-camera system to evaluate image-based body weight modeling for heifers and developing an automated system to analyze ultrasound images from the mammary grand. He is combining body measurements and the ultrasound image assessment of mammary glands with genomic information to predict reproduction and production performance.
Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
Brucellosis, Q fever and MERS-CoV are severe zoonotic diseases that affect camels and can spread to humans. Markey is compiling baseline information that local animal health authorities in Samburu, Kenya can use to formulate, implement and evaluate disease control and preventive measures for these infectious diseases in camels. Additionally, Markey is estimating the level of pathogens that can cause these diseases and identifying exposure factors associated with positive brucellosis, Q fever and/or MERS-CoV antibodies in camels.
Long Island University
The American lobster is an economically important commodity for the US shellfish industry. Epizootic shell disease (ESD) is an infection on the shell that can lead to secondary infections or death. This emerging disease is associated with warming seawater temperatures, caused by climate change. Schaubeck is using computational tools to identify ESD-associated microbiota changes in American lobsters and genes that are associated with protection against ESD. This work protects a valuable industry from changing climate impacts.
University of Georgia
Current gene editing methods are often expensive and time-consuming. Rasys developed a more efficient and affordable gene editing approach that she used to successfully create the world’s first genetically modified reptile. Rasys is adapting this technique to alter a gene that causes albinism in chickens, which involves microinjecting CRISPR, a technology to edit genes, directly into adult female unfertilized eggs. Editing genes in birds has been notoriously difficult using CRISPR or other genome editing tools, yet these technologies have huge potential for improving animal health and welfare in poultry, the food animal species with the fastest growing global demand.
Kansas State University
African swine fever virus (ASFV) causes a highly contagious and deadly disease of swine for which there is no vaccine. McCall is identifying protective antigens, viral proteins that produce a protective immune response in the body, within the ASFV genome. This information is critical to developing an efficient vaccine against ASFV, greatly benefitting global pork producers.
Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research
The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.
Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking