Category Archives: Farm animals

New Salmonella Dublin test for milk and cattle available for first time in US

Salmonella can cause serious disease on cattle farms, killing calves, causing cows to abort, contaminating raw milk, and harming humans along the way. While the cattle-adapted strain Salmonella Dublin creeps into the Northeastern US, veterinarians and farmers struggle to catch the bacteria in time to protect livestock because these bacteria often hide dormant in carrier animals, making the strain particularly hard to diagnose.

For the first time in the US, a more useful test for Salmonella Dublin is now available exclusively at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center (AHDC). Cheaper, quicker, safer, and more sensitive, the test detects antibodies rather than bacteria. Traditional bacteriological tests could only identify S. Dublin organisms in sick or deceased animals, missing up to 85% of infections in carrier cattle. The new test reveals carriers, helping farmers and veterinarians monitor infection spread over time and track the impact of control measures in ways that were previously impossible.

Dairy-cows-Pavement“We’re very concerned about this disease spreading east because it could severely harm animal and human health, as well as the livelihoods of dairies in the region,” said Dr. Belinda Thompson, senior extension associate at the AHDC. “Salmonella Dublin is already common west of the Mississippi River, but it’s only recently being recognized in the Northeastern US. We want to be pro-active now to keep it out of our farms.”

In recent years the AHDC has dealt with several high-morbidity and high-mortality outbreaks of Salmonella Dublin in New York and other states. To address the problem before it grows further, Dr. Bettina Wagner, director of the Serology and Immunology Section of the AHDC laboratory, secured the nation’s first USDA permit to import and use the enhanced test.

While Salmonella Dublin usually doesn’t make adults cows very sick, it can wreak havoc on young and unborn calves, particularly in populations like those in the East Coast that haven’t been exposed. Its resistance to many common antibiotics severely limits treatment options and, to make matters even worse, it often presents as respiratory disease, throwing off track veterinarians trained to recognize diarrhea as salmonella’s telltale sign.

“Infected calves often look fine the day before a sudden rapid onset, the next day they look depressed, and the next day they die,” said Dr. Paul Virkler, senior extension associate at the AHDC. “Veterinarians often think it’s something else-. We’ve seen newly infected herds in which every single calf in a particular age group dies. We’re trying to keep this from getting to baby calves, the life and future of a farm, and the animals most at risk.”

People working with cattle are also at risk. All Salmonella strains affect most vertebrates and can jump between species. Even carriers that don’t seem sick can shed bacteria, and people, companion animals, and other livestock can pick up the infection through contact with any bodily excretion.

“People have died drinking raw milk with Salmonella Dublin,” said Virkler. “It’s one of the bad players in raw milk. Pasteurizing milk will kill the bacteria.”
Prior to the new test’s release, testing had to be done animal by animal. The new antibody test can use milk samples straight from bulk milk tanks to find whether a herd has been exposed. It can also work with blood samples and diagnose individuals, helping keep unexposed herds infection-free by removing infected animals and pre-screening new animals farmers are considering buying.

“Herd managers can take preventative measures and help control the infection’s spread by isolating sick calves, pasteurizing milk, managing cattle movement, and improving hygiene,” said Thompson. “But to see if any of this is working, they need a tool to monitor success. We didn’t have that until now. This test will let us learn about the prevalence of Salmonella Dublin on the East Coast and hopefully nip it in the bud.”
cows in field

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http://vet.cornell.edu/news/Dublin.cfm

Media Hits:

Cornell Chronicle

http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Oct12/SalmonellaDublin.html

Meat Trade News Daily

http://www.meattradenewsdaily.co.uk/news/291112/usa___a_lack_of_understanding_over_salmonella_.aspx

MyScience

http://www.myscience.us/wire/cornell_offers_only_u_s_salmonella_dublin_test_for_cattle-2012-cornell

The Post Standard: Syracuse.com

http://blog.syracuse.com/farms/2012/11/better_test_for_cattle_disease.html

Phys.org

http://phys.org/news/2012-11-cornell-salmonella-dublin-cattle.html

Drovers CattleNetwork.com

http://www.cattlenetwork.com/cattle-news/Cornell-offers-only-US-salmonella-dublin-test-for-cattle-176821551.html?ref=551

Bovine Veterinarian Online

http://www.bovinevetonline.com/news/industry/Cornell-offers-only-US-salmonella-dublin-test-for-cattle-176821551.html

USAgNet

http://www.usagnet.com/story-national.php?Id=2486&yr=2012

Dairy Herd Network

http://www.dairyherd.com/dairy-news/latest/Cornell-offers-only-US-salmonella-dublin-test-for-cattle-176821551.html

Food Safety News

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/11/cornells-new-test-spots-salmonella-in-cattle/

Ithaca Journal

http://www.theithacajournal.com/article/20121111/NEWS01/311110027/Cornell-test-detects-salmonella-cattle?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|p

Before It’s News

http://beforeitsnews.com/food-and-farming/2012/11/cornells-new-test-spots-salmonella-in-cattle-2446024.html

Healthy Cooking News

http://healthycookingnews.blogspot.com/2012/11/cornells-new-test-spots-salmonella-in.html

Beef Cattle News

http://savant7.com/beefcattlenews/

Stop Foodborne Illness

http://www.stopfoodborneillness.org/content/cornell%E2%80%99s-new-test-spots-salmonella-cattle

MeatingPlace

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:lnLu6SjDDeMJ:www.meatingplace.com/Industry/News/Details/37578+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

Highbeam Business

http://business.highbeam.com/409224/article-1G1-310739927/cornell-offers-new-salmonella-test-cattle

CABI.org VetMed Resource

http://www.cabi.org/VetMedBeta/news/22617

The Meat Site

http://www.themeatsite.com/meatnews/19365/cornell-offers-us-salmonella-dublin-test-for-cattle

Reverse genetics better vaccines

Cornell-Israel collaboration works backwards to fight virus threatening livestock trade worldwide

European livestock beware: bluetongue virus is coming your way, and it’s deadlier than ever. Once limited to warmer climes, the insect-borne virus’s new highly pathogenic strain has been spreading northward since 2006, reaching farther into Europe than ever before. Bluetongue’s rise threatens ruminants and the industries depending on them. Sheep and deer suffer most, developing dangerously high fevers, swollen mouths, and occasionally the disease’s signature blue tongue. Most infected sheep and deer die; other ruminants (cattle, goats, camels, buffalo, and antelopes) show milder symptoms but can carry the disease, further enabling its spread.

Illnesses, deaths, and international trade restrictions due to bluetongue have cost the world economy billions, including the United States, whose more benign strains still hinder livestock-related exports to bluetongue-free countries. Vaccines work weakly at best: with 25 separate strains each needing yearly updates, the quickly-evolving bluetongue virus seems to defy defense.

In the arms race between virus and victim, human knowledge is catching up. Dr. John Parker, virologist at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Baker Institute for Animal Health, has joined Israeli microbiologist Dr. Marcelo Ehrlich of the University of Tel Aviv to learn what makes bluetongue tick, unlocking the inner workings of its deadliest strain with discoveries that could help in designing a lasting universal vaccine.

“No one thought bluetongue would spread this far, and with current vaccines even the most watchful countries can’t protect themselves from it,” said Parker. “Insects carrying bluetongue don’t respect national borders, and climate change has let them expand their range. Meanwhile this new strain is especially virulent: good at bursting through cells to infect new ones. If we can learn how bluetongue kills cells and why this strain is so good at it, we may be able to better control its spread.”

When bluetongue invades a cell it creates a protein called NS3, reproduces, and eventually bursts through the cell. All strains produce NS3, but the more virulent strains produce an altered form. When experiments in Israel suggested NS3 helps degrade cells so the virus can escape, Ehrlich contacted Parker, a former collaborator, who studies cell death.

The pair has created a novel plasmid-based system to discover exactly what NS3 does using reverse genetics. While standard “forward” genetics start with a trait then look for the genes influencing it, recently developed “reverse” genetics systems manipulate specific genes to look for their effects. Parker and Ehrlich are making mutant bluetongue viruses that alter NS3 to see what it does in a cell.

“Reverse genetics has become the gold standard for doing molecular virology,” said Parker. “It’s particularly useful for studying specific proteins. But until recently it was very difficult to develop these systems for reoviruses, the family to which bluetongue belongs.”

In 2006 one of Parker’s collaborators created a new reverse genetics system that uses plasmids, easily copied pieces of bacterial DNA, to insert viral mutants directly into cells, skipping steps that once impeded the study of reoviruses.

“The majority of Cornell’s microbiology labs do this every day: they take plasmid DNA, mutate it, and study the effect on a protein,” said Parker. “It’s much more convenient and makes transferring genetic material between labs easier, enabling better collaboration. In Israel, where virulent bluetongue is common, Marcelo will conduct experiments that for biosecurity reasons could never be conducted in the US, where strains are relatively benign.”

The researchers took an unusual route in constructing the mutant viruses they will study: hiring a company to synthesize them from scratch.

“These days you can make a pathogen by putting in an order,” said Parker. “It was first done for Polio virus, and more and more researchers are taking this approach. It’s cheaper and faster than paying grad students to spend months cloning genes. People used to learn PCR—nowadays my lab staff learn how to place an order, making sure the DNA sequence they ask for is right.”

“Viruses are often seen as mysterious and dangerous things that are hard to control. There’s some truth to that, but we are making significant progress in our abilities to manipulate viruses in ways that help us understand them better in order to develop better vaccines and treatments.”

Their work is supported by the US-Israel Binational Agricultural Research Development (BARD) Fund, which funds collaborative research to solve agricultural problems.

File:Map of molecular epidemiology of bluetongue virus in Europe.gif

The molecular epidemiology of bluetongue virus (BTV) since 1998: routes of introduction of different serotypes and individual virus strains. 

Map Source

‘Scopes Magazine
February 2012

Cornell China Dairy Institute teaches second crop of food-animal veterinarians from across China

For four weeks this past fall over two dozen dairy veterinarians converged on a private farm in Sanhe City, 37 miles east of Beijing. Here in China’s Heibei province, the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine has partnered with Huaxia Dairy as well as local Chinese educational, government, and agricultural institutions to lead an international collaboration that is benefiting animal health and food safety in China and beyond.

Cornell China Dairy Institute has provided hands-on continuing education to approximately 70 Chinese veterinarians and veterinary technicians since its launch in September 2010. During the four-week program, participants from across China attend morning lectures at Sanhe City Vocational Education College followed by afternoon hands-on training at the Huaxia Dairy farm taught by Cornell veterinarians, veterinary students, and lab technicians.

Revenue from the program goes to support the College’s local dairy programs in New York State, including food-animal externships and the highly successful Summer Dairy Institute on which the China program is based.

“This is one of the few international veterinary education programs to offer live hands-on veterinary training as well as lecture-based instruction,” said Dr. Lorin Warnick, associate dean for veterinary education at Cornell. “As agriculture and associated economies become increasingly globalized, the US has a growing interest in international disease management, food safety, and public health. The goals of the program are to advance clinical skills of veterinary staff and improve cattle care and welfare on Chinese dairy farms.  Our faculty and students benefit from seeing the dairy industry firsthand in the world’s most populous country and one in which agricultural practices are changing rapidly.”

Tailored to meet the current needs of the veterinary community in China, content integrates topics such as how to care for sick or injured cows, calf health and heifer-raising, dairy reproduction, and techniques for ensuring high quality milk production.

“The China dairy program is part of the College’s global efforts and will help to transform animal health training in this region of the world,” said Dean Michael Kotlikoff. “The global community is connected in ways that are critical to the health and well-being of animals, people, and the environment everywhere. Cornell is positioned well to help influence the direction veterinary medicine takes, in the United States and around the world.”

The timing is right for this type of initiative, according to Charles Shao, CEO of Huaxia Dairy Farm, who explained that China’s dairy industry is presently in a growth phase.

“There is an intense desire to improve efficiency and production in China and to be able to support increased consumer demand for high quality milk and dairy products,” said Shao. “This collaboration has the potential to have a strong impact on the delivery of veterinary services to dairy farms in China.”

The program also supports goals outlined in the College’s strategic plan, including finding opportunities to influence the standards for veterinary practice followed around the world and providing teaching opportunities for Cornell veterinary students who may be interested in a career in academia.

Josh Boyden ’12 spent two weeks in China as a teaching assistant in October 2011.

“While faculty lectured in the mornings, employees would present us with cases and questions on the farm that demanded immediate attention,” said Boyden, who plans to go into large-animal practice in the Northeast after graduation. “The chance to interact with enthusiastic employees and promote good on-farm practices helped reinforce the importance of basics and offered great perspective and personal satisfaction.”

This year’s teaching team also included teaching assistant Karen James ’12; PhD student Dr. Soon Hon Cheong; alum Dr. Mark Thomas ’97; and Drs. Lorin Warnick, Charles Guard, Daryl Nydam, Robert Gilbert, Rodrigo Bicalho, Gary Bennett, and Michael Zurakowski.

“As the program grows, so do the College’s opportunities for international engagement,” said Warnick. “Most participants are dairy farm staff, but we have also begun to see graduate students attending from the Chinese Agriculture University in Beijing. Feedback has been very positive about the value of the course material.”

Support for the Cornell China Dairy Institute comes from student tuition, Huaxia Dairy, Pfizer Animal Health, the U.S. Grains Council, Alta Genetics, Land O’ Lakes, Sanhe City Vocational Education College, and the Sanhe City government.

‘Scopes Magazine
February 2012

Show highlights farm animal veterinary medicine

Peter Ostrum ’84 highlighted in new online show documenting work of farm animal veterinarians

Modern American livestock farmers face two emerging challenges: an increasing shortage of large-animal veterinarians, and dimming public understanding of what happens with food before it hits the fork. A new reality documentary series called Veterinarians on Call seeks to bridge these gaps by offering online viewers a candid look into the work of real livestock veterinarians, raising awareness of the care that goes into responsible livestock farming in the US.

Ostrum

As part of its efforts to support the veterinary and animal health industry, pharmaceutical company Pfizer funded the show’s production. Currently seven short ‘webisodes’ are available through the show’s Youtube Channel. Each episode follows one of several livestock veterinarians selected from various states and specialties who have volunteered to be filmed in their day-to-day work behind the scenes caring for food-production animals.

Cattle veterinarian Dr. Peter Ostrum ’84 features prominently in the series. Ostrum had an early start onstage playing the role of Charlie in the classic film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). Preferring farms to fame, he left acting to earn his DVM from Cornell and now works at a mixed animal practice in upstate New York, which he co-owns with three other Cornell alumni.

Ostrum

“I got a call from a friend and fellow alum, Dr. Roger Saltman ’81, who works at Pfizer, and asked me if I’d be willing to participate,” said Ostrum. “The crew shadowed me throughout my normal workday and during emergency calls on dairy farms. When we discussed cases on camera I tried to explain what I’m doing for someone who’d never been on a farm.”

The show highlights how veterinary care plays into the key concepts of animal welfare and food safety, and reveals aspects of the job Ostrum says people wouldn’t normally think of.

Ostrum

“This job is not just treating sick cows. A lot of it is education; we spend a lot of time with people, training the farm workers who work with these animals every day and are usually the ones making decisions about treatment,” said Ostrum.
“Growing up, most of my peers were raised on farms. Now that more people live in cities and suburbs, fewer and fewer people understand what agriculture involves. I’m doing this to encourage aspiring veterinarians to consider large animal medicine, and also to try to help people reconnect with their food sources and shed some light on what’s going on in the farming sector.”

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http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/vetsoncall_Ostrum.cfm

Study shows drinking ‘raw’ milk puts farmworkers, babies, and others at higher disease risk

Nov. 8, 2011

By Carly Hodes

Will a fresh glass of “raw” milk nourish or poison you? Pasteurization almost always provides protection from contamination. Unpasteurized “raw” milk, on the other hand, provides a potential breeding ground for disease-causing bacteria such as E. coli, Listeria, Campylobacter and Salmonella, all of which have caused outbreaks spread by raw milk in the past year, said Ynte Schukken, professor of epidemiology and herd health at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

researcher Ynte Schukken with dairy cows

Dr. Ynte Schukken, professor of epidemiology and herd health, with livestock.

He has co-authored a paper in the August issue of the Journal of Food Production quantifying the risk of contracting Listeria monocytogenes from raw milk. In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the four-year project of graduate student Alejandra Latorre produced a comprehensive map showing which populations were most at risk when buying from various sources.

“Listeria is one of the most virulent and deadly foodborne pathogens,” said Schukken. “Our study demonstrates the relative risk various populations face when ingesting raw milk, including farmworkers, pregnant women, young babies and the elderly. Compared to intermediate-aged adults, these last three groups were particularly susceptible.”

The researchers analyzed risk across various purchasing methods including buying from a farm’s on-site store, directly from its bulk tank or from a third-party retailer. “Raw milk from retailers proved most dangerous by far. But when it comes to milk, the safest purchasing decision you can make is to buy it pasteurized,” Schukken said.

Despite its dangers, 28 states permit the sale of raw milk. Enthusiasts claim health benefits from nutritious compounds supposedly destroyed by pasteurization.

“These claims are not backed by scientific evidence, and several studies have shown them to be myths,” said Schukken. “Pasteurization helped revolutionize health, effectively ending diseases such as tuberculosis and Q fever. Bypassing this safety measure could have serious consequences for public health, dramatically increasing bacterial infection and outbreaks.”

Other tips to minimize risk, says Schukken: “Make sure the farm is a legal raw milk farm participating in a testing program. Only buy what you can finish in a week, keep it cold in your fridge, and use it quickly.”

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Media Hits:

Cornell Chronicle

http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Nov11/RawMilk.html

Medical Xpress (PhysOrg)

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-11-raw-poses-groups.html

MyScience

http://www.myscience.us/wire/drinking_raw_milk_puts_farmworkers_babies_and_others_at_higher_disease_risk-2011-cornell

Minnesota Ag Connection

http://www.minnesotaagconnection.com/story-national.php?Id=2396&yr=2011

UPI

http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2011/11/19/Raw-milk-puts-babies-farm-workers-at-risk/UPI-75531321743525/?spt=hs&or=hn

Western Farm Press

http://westernfarmpress.com/management/running-risks-raw-milk-food-safety-blunder

Real Raw Milk Facts

http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com/raw-milk-news/story/cornell-drinking-raw-milk-puts-farmworkers-babies-and-others-at-higher-dise/

Public Opinion Online

http://www.publicopiniononline.com/living/ci_19445503

Bites

http://bites.ksu.edu/news/151355/11/11/09/us-running-risks-raw-milk-food-safety-blunder

Southwest Farm Press

http://southwestfarmpress.com/livestock/running-risks-raw-milk-food-safety-blunder

Grateful pig owner gives gift of sight to Cornell’s future animal patients

TrixieHours before she was scheduled to leave for vacation, Dr. Nita Irby received a distressed call in the ophthalmology service. Trixie, a beloved miniature potbellied pig, was suffering from an undiagnosed painful eye problem that had been ongoing for several months. Irby agreed to see the pig and in May 2011 Kathy Ruttenberg, a successful artist hugely inspired by her relationships with her adored pets, drove Trixie four hours to the Cornell University Hospital for Animals (CUHA).

“Trixie was squinting, had a great deal of tears from her eye, and was clearly in pain,” said Irby. “Examining her eye, we found a small, shallow ulcer scarring on the eye and hairs trapped in the eye that might have been causing ulcers. We carefully removed the hairs and Trixie improved within days.”

Unfortunately, a week or so after the eye healed it became painful once again and Trixie returned to the CUHA for a second examination.

“We found nothing abnormal other than a small ulcer at a new location on the eye,” said Irby. “But her hair coat appeared unhealthy and her skin seemed abnormally scaly. Dr. Danny Scott in dermatology diagnosed congenital ichthyosis and prescribed colloidal oatmeal baths and nutritional supplements. In follow-up appointments Trixie’s coat has been looking great. At her last visit the Zeiss operating microscope was used to carefully examine the eye and diagnose a qualitative tear film deficiency. Although Trixie’s eye has continued to cause intermittent painful episodes, we hope to see an improvement over the next four to six weeks as the new medication we prescribed begins to work.”

“From the moment I first called, Dr. Irby was there for us”, said Ruttenberg, who contacted the Hospital wanting to donate in Irby’s honor shortly after the initial visit and soon decided to fund the purchase of a new phacoemulsification machine used by the ophthalmology service for cataract removal surgery.

“Shortly after Trixie’s initial visit, the ophthalmology service discovered a major potential hardship,” said Irby. “Ophthalmology provides a life-changing service by removing cataracts from dogs, cats, horses, and many other animal species to restore sight to animals blinded by cataracts. The surgery requires a phacoemulsification machine, the same device used on humans that utilizes ultrasound to break apart the lens and remove the pieces from the eye. The manufacturer was phasing out our model and would soon stop making the packs we needed to ensure each patient has a new, sterile setup for surgery. We had no money to upgrade to a new machine. The very next day after hearing that we could not purchase the new machine Kathy asked me how she could provide more support to us. Our new machine has been ordered and will arrive any day. Kathy’s gift will help restore vision to many, many animals now and in the future.”

Ruttenberg is well known for her love of animals, which has been the subject of several news articles, including one in The New York Timescovering her habit of sleeping with Trixie and others from her menagerie of 70 animals in her mountain home in upstate N.Y. Her generous gift to CUHA will help many animals live better quality lives.

“Dr. Irby exudes such positive energy,” said Ruttenberg. “We need more good vets like her, and I wanted to give a gift in her honor. Cornell’s hospital strongly impressed me with its professionalism and warmth. Everyone was so nice and knowledgeable and clearly adored animals. From the technicians and staff to the students and faculty, they were patient talking me through things and sharing my care for Trixie. There is nowhere else in the world I would leave my pig.”

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Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine News

http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/alumni/11Aug/trixie.cfm

Graduate student wins veterinary training grant to model economics of epidemics

smithWhere economics and epidemiology collide, graduate student Rebecca Smith, DVM ’05 builds the tools to chart their course. In March 2011 Smith won a specialized veterinary training grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), making her the first student in eight years to win at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Smith will use the $350,000 five-year fellowship to model key cattle diseases and find cost-effective ways of limiting their spread.

As animal models grow increasingly valuable to biomedical research, so do veterinary investigators with animal expertise. The Special Emphasis Research Career Award (K01 Award) in Pathology and Comparative Medicine is the sole NIH grant available to researchers with DVM degrees. Its funds train veterinarians in advanced research techniques while aggressively moving them toward roles as independent investigators. Smith won through a combination of prior publications, a multidisciplinary mentorship committee, and a research proposal relevant to both animal and human health.

“While many researchers use mouse gene lines to study how human diseases develop in individuals, animal herds can model how diseases spread across human populations,” said Smith. “I study mycobacterial diseases like leprosy, tuberculosis, and Johne’s Disease, which can devastate animals and humans alike. They’re hard to manage and diagnose because symptoms usually arise long after infection begins. But if we can successfully diagnose some cases, we can look back and say when infection probably began, how infectious individuals are likely to be now, and how much a herd is at risk.”

With data from dairy herds across the world that suffered outbreaks of bovine tuberculosis and Johne’s disease, Smith will apply advanced statistical techniques in new ways to develop a mathematical model. This framework will estimate transmission rates, measure infection pressure, and evaluate control efforts. It will then generate cost-benefit analyses that will help health organizations decide how to most cost-effectively manage disease.

“A third of the world’s population is infected with tuberculosis, according to estimates from the World Health Organization,” said Smith. “Meanwhile, leprosy is almost gone. In an ideal world we might eradicate all diseases entirely, but when economics come into play that’s not always the best option. We must live with a certain level of disease. This model will help us determine how much.”

Smith will work under the mentorship of Dr. Yrjo Grohn, chair of the Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, and Dr. Ynte Schukken, director of the Quality Milk Production Service and Professor in the Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences.  A committee from across Cornell will provide further mentorship, including Dr. Robert Strawderman, professor of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology; Dr. Loren Tauer, chair of the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management; and Dr. David Russell, chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

Smith teaches the graduate-level course “Introduction to Epidemiology” while pursuing her current research and outreach work.

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http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/Epidemiology.cfm

Cornell receives $500,000 to tackle salmonella in tomatoes

tomatoTwo experts from Cornell are teaming up to tackle salmonella contamination in produce, thanks to a $500,000 grant from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Cornell was one of 24 institutions to receive such grants to reduce food-borne illnesses and deaths from microbial contamination. Craig Altier, a salmonella specialist at the Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, will work with Greg Martin, Cornell professor of plant pathology and plant-microbe biology and an expert on tomato disease resistance at the Cornell-affiliated Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, to investigate how salmonella interacts with tomatoes with the hope of finding ways to stop its spread.

“My lab explores how salmonella interacts with animal intestinal tracts,” said Altier, associate professor of population medicine and diagnostic science. “Bacteria are very frugal creatures; they turn genes on and off only when they need to. They only turn on the genes that make animals sick when they know they’re in an animal, and we want to know how this process works in plants. We will look at which bacterial genes turn on when salmonella enters a tomato and try to figure out how to intervene.”

salmonellaUnwittingly sharing our food with unseen organisms sends thousands to the hospital each year. Some 50 million Americans get sick every year after consuming food-poisoning pathogens, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 3,000 of those cases are fatal. Salmonella bacteria pose the biggest food-borne health threat in the United States. While the quest for cleaner food reduced cases of many food-borne pathogens during the past 15 years, salmonella infections continue to rise.

Altier will grow mutant strains of salmonella in his lab to study how the bacteria affect tomatoes when they lack certain genes. He will take strains to Martin’s lab to test them on tomato plants while Martin studies the plants’ immune responses. After running them through the course of infection, Altier will remove the salmonella from the plants to analyze in his lab.

“A number of recent salmonella outbreaks started with contaminated produce,” said Martin. “My lab studies how the tomato immune system acts against certain bacterial pathogens, and this new project will test whether the plant immune system interferes with salmonella’s ability to survive on leaves and fruits. If it does, we may be able to breed new varieties that suppress salmonella growth, which could have implications for lessening salmonella contamination in many different crop plants.”

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Original Press Release:

College of Veterinary Medicine news

http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/tomatoes.cfm

Media Hits:

Cornell Chronicle

http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/June11/Salmonella.html

Bionity

http://www.bionity.com/en/news/133272/cornell-receives-500-000-to-tackle-salmonella-in-tomatoes.html

My Science

http://www.myscience.cc/en/wire/cornell_receives_500_000_to_tackle_salmonella_in_tomatoes-2011-cornell

US Ag Net

http://www.usagnet.com/state_headlines/state_story.php?tble=NY2011&ID=560

South Dakota Ag Connection

http://www.southdakotaagconnection.com/story-national.php?Id=1372&yr=2011

Bionity

http://www.bionity.com/en/news/133272/cornell-receives-500-000-to-tackle-salmonella-in-tomatoes.html?WT.mc_id=ca0265

 

New Lyme disease test for horses and dogs will help improve treatment

Bettina WagnerRomping through summer fields seems like a harmless pleasure for dogs, horses and humans alike. But just one bite from the wrong tick can rob an animal of that pastime. The bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi catch rides with certain species of ticks and can cause Lyme disease in animals the ticks bite. Catching the disease early is paramount because it becomes progressively harder to fight as the bacteria conduct guerilla warfare from hiding places in the joints, nervous tissues and organs of their hosts.

A new test for Lyme disease in horses and dogs, developed by researchers at the Animal Health Diagnostic Center (AHDC) at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell, will improve our understanding of the disease and pinpoint time of infection, opening possibilities for earlier intervention and more effective treatment plans.

“We’ve offered Lyme disease testing for years,” said Bettina Wagner, the Harry M. Zweig Associate Professor in Equine Health and lead developer of the test, “but we have recently been able to improve our techniques with the multiplex testing procedure. The new test exceeds its predecessors in accuracy, specificity and analytical sensitivity.”

The multiplex procedure, which can detect three different antibodies produced in response to the bacteria associated with Lyme disease using a single test on the sample, eliminates the need for separate tests. In addition, it requires smaller samples and answers more questions about the disease. Multiplex technology has been used for the last decade, but the AHDC is the first veterinary diagnostic laboratory to use it to test for Lyme disease.

Different kinds of antibodies can be found in the body at different stages of infection. The new test can distinguish and measure these differences, giving more information about the timing of the disease.

The bacteria that cause Lyme disease are particularly difficult to detect, according to Wagner, because after infection they tend to hide where they can’t be found. They bury in the joints of dogs, causing arthritis or lameness. Serious kidney disease has also been associated with Lyme infections in dogs. In humans and horses, they also burrow into the nervous system, in the spine or the brain, causing pain, paralysis or behavioral changes. By the time such clinical signs appear, the bacteria are usually not in circulation anymore.

Horse“Now we can distinguish between infection and vaccination and also between early and chronic infection stages,” Wagner said. “That was not possible before. You were able to say whether an animal was infected, but not when it was infected, or how far the infection had developed.”

The test and information the test provides can help veterinarians make advanced decisions about treatment. After the long treatment period ends, veterinarians usually conduct follow-up testing to see if it was successful.

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Cornell Chronicle: June 16, 2011
http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/lymeassay.cfm

Cross-continental collaboration from farm to fork

dFood sustains us but also can endanger us. In the first major public health project between Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar, a team of multidisciplinary cross-continental collaborators aims to mitigate food contamination and keep food clean, from production to consumption, in Qatar.

With a $1 million grant from the Qatar Research Foundation, Hussni Mohammed, professor of epidemiology at the Veterinary College, is leading a project to assess risks associated with food-poisoning pathogens. Drawing from a network of faculty and resources spanning the two campuses, Mohammed’s team will carry out risk assessment studies to model how pathogens put the public at risk in order to better inform efforts to control contamination.

“We are investigating the epidemiology and ecology of food-borne pathogens as they move through the food chain from the sources to the table in Qatar,” said Mohammed. “Four kinds of bacteria pose major threats to Qatar’s food systems: Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria monocytogenes. We aim to determine each species’ prevalence; to identify agent, host and environmental factors that perpetuate these pathogens; and to ascertain factors such as antibiotic resistance that could contribute to development of new virulent strains.”

fThis research will help answer questions crucial to addressing contamination. Does infected milk come from infected cows? Or are pathogens more likely to enter the food chain in the packaging facility, during transportation or at the retailers where milk is ultimately sold?

Following food from farm to table, Mohammed’s team investigates all levels of the supply chain, drawing samples from food animals, their products, the environments they pass through and the humans consuming them. Using bacteriological and PCR techniques to test for pathogens at each level, Mohammed is constructing data-driven mathematical models to determine where and how these pathogens infiltrate the food supply system.

“The models we develop will help producers and public agencies develop and implement cost-effective and science-based strategies to ensure the safety and sustainability of Qatar’s food supply system,” said Mohammed. “Taking our data a step further, we are using the samples from humans to search for ties between food-poisoning pathogens and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Little is known about IBD, but several studies suggest it is caused by bacterial imbalances in the gut. We hope our data can help elucidate correlations between these food-borne pathogens and IBD.”

He added: “Qatar is a quickly developing country committed to supporting new research through the Qatar Foundation. It is a privilege to be involved with a project in Qatar that could have life-changing applications for public health in the region and in the wider world.”

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Cornell Chronicle

http://www.news.cornell.edu/…

MyScience

http://www.myscience.us/…

R&D Magazine

http://www.rdmag.com/…

USAgNet

http://www.usagnet.com/…

Scientific Computing

http://www.scimag.com/…