UW Hires Brucellosis Research Coordinator

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Brucellosis research priorities are vaccine development for cattle and wildlife and improved diagnostic tests, according to the new research coordinator at the University of Wyoming for the disease.

Walt Cook began in May at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to assist Dean Frank Galey in his role as chairman of the Wyoming Brucellosis Coordination Team and the Consortium for the Advancement of Brucellosis Science (CABS). 

 “My job is to coordinate brucellosis research within UW and among several universities across the country where research is being conducted,” said Cook. “This is being done through CABS.” 

There is exciting research going on at UW and elsewhere, said Cook, but that research is hampered by lack of funding and lack of facilities for large-animal brucellosis trials. 

“Brucella abortus, the causative agent of brucellosis, is considered a select agent,” said Cook, “meaning it has potential for use in bioterrorism. With this status come severe restrictions for its use; any research done using the field strain must be conducted under very tight security. The new biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) addition to the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory will allow research using rodent models to be completed in Laramie.”

Cook said Assistant Professor Gerry Andrews and his team in the Department of Veterinary Sciences have developed good vaccine candidates and, with completion of the lab, will be able to try them on mouse models. If successful, the vaccines would then be tried on cattle, elk or bison. 

This work would need to be conducted elsewhere in facilities that can hold these large animals and still comply with the BSL-3 requirements of working with B. abortus. 


“That is where the coordination comes in,” said Cook. “The other big issue is funding. Although vaccine trials using lab mice can be conducted relatively cheaply, studies using large animals under BSL-3 conditions are very expensive. Brucellosis is a chronic disease; this means any studies must be long-term to be realistic. This also adds to the expense of the studies.”

CABS is dedicated to finding additional brucellosis funding sources and funneling those resources to the most appropriate areas, he said. Members are a scientific team of researchers from UW, the University of  California, Davis, Texas A&M University, Louisiana State University, Virginia Tech University, Montana State University and the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Ames, Iowa, as well as a stakeholder advisory team whose members are from the federal government and from state governments in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Although related, the brucellosis coordination team is concentrating on reducing the risk of transmission from wildlife to cattle with currently available techniques, said Cook. For more information about the brucellosis coordination team, see www.wyomingbrucellosis.com/.

Cook worked as assistant state veterinarian and state veterinarian for the Wyoming Livestock Board prior to coming to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. He had previously worked as a wildlife veterinarian for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

 Source: University of Wyoming

Posted by Kaci Switzer

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