Taking on Zoonotic Disease

Photo of a muddy cow

Photo of a muddy cowEven more so than human medical research, veterinary medical research has a wide range of facets, from investigating how to best alleviate the pain and suffering of individual animals, to addressing public health concerns raised by zoonosis (disease that can be transmitted between humans and other animals), to the economic effects created by a scarcity of food and animal labor power.

As global populations (and population density) climb, industrialized animal farming becomes all the more vital—and all the more risky, making both animals and people more vulnerable to infection. Scientists at Michigan State University recognize that we need to get on top of these problems before we poison ourselves out of the equation.

MSU researchers from several areas of study worked with Michigan cattle farmers to collect and interpret data for a study published in 2016 showing that cattle under stress are more likely to shed Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). STEC is believed to sicken more than a quarter of a million humans each year, and cattle are the primary source of STEC (which is shed in their feces). Armed with this data, MSU scientists and cattle farmers are developing animal management strategies to reduce transmission of this pathogenic bacteria.

If we can conquer STEC in the field, what’s next? Salmonella? Zika?

[Photo credit: GollyGforce, CC BY 2.0]

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