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Research Snapshot: Antibiotics and Bacterial Resistance in Food Animals

Out of concern over the growing number of antibiotic resistant bacteria, federal policymakers will phase out the practice of giving food animals low-doses of antibiotics to promote growth. In an effort to discover whether science backs up the potential policy change, Associate Professor in Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) Tim Johnson, Ph.D., studied the issue.

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In the News: Bird Flu detected in Cooper’s Hawk

The new strain H5N2 of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), has killed more than 4 million turkeys and chickens in Minnesota, and affected 70 different farms throughout the state. The strain has been circulating in the Mississippi flyway since early March.

For the first time, researchers detected H5N2 in a wild bird. The Cooper’s hawk in Yellow Medicine County crashed into a window above the deck of a homeowner, Patrick Redig, D.V.M., Ph.D., College of Veterinary Medicine professor and co-founder of the Raptor Center, told the Star Tribune. Later, tests confirmed that the Cooper’s hawk was also positive for H5N2.

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Disease transmission among humans, animals affects chimpanzee conservation in Tanzania

The spread of disease from animal to human is no new phenomenon; the bubonic plague spread through rat fleas, Rabies normally transfers through animal bites and Ebola has commonly been linked to bats. It’s called zoonosis: when a disease from an infected animal population spills over to humans.

But pathogens can spread both ways. Humans can pass diseases to animals, too (called anthropozoonosis).

Cryptosporidiosis, commonly called Crypto, is one such disease taking a particular toll on chimpanzees within Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. A thorough analysis of the epidemiology of cryptosporidium – the parasite that causes Crypto – recently published in PLOS One, reveals the complexities of disease transmission in the Gombe ecosystem. The discovery could have broader implications on wildlife and chimpanzee conservation models.

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Vaccination program for pet dogs may not fully prevent lion infections in Serengeti

In June 2014, Health Talk first shared that a virus carried by domestic dogs is threatening the health of wild cats like the Serengeti lion. Now, in an update to that research, new findings led by the University of Glasgow and co-authored by the University of Minnesota suggest vaccinating domestic dogs against this virus, known as canine distemper, is not enough to keep Serengeti lions and their cohabitants, the endangered African wild dog, safe from infection.

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Minnesota invests in regenerative medicine

Last year, the 2014 Minnesota legislative session brought a big win for regenerative medicine, as legislators passed a bill allotting nearly $50 million over 10 years for regenerative medicine research, clinical translation and commercialization efforts.

Some of that research funding has now been awarded to Bruce Walcheck, Ph.D., professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, whose proposal was one of six funded out of 90 applications. Bruce is the principal investigator on a new $500,000 grant for research on engineering human pluripotent stem cells to generate enhanced natural killer cells for cancer therapy. The ultimate goal: treating cancer using the patient’s immune system.

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UMN research finds room for improvement in Latin American & Caribbean food safety safeguards

Food safety standards can be shaky at best in developing Caribbean and Latin American regions. In 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated at least one-third of individuals in developing countries likely contract a foodborne illness each year. And with Latin America and the Caribbean forecasted to play a growing role in global food production and exports in the coming years, that high rate of foodborne illness is one worth paying attention to.

University of Minnesota food safety risk analyst and assistant professor, Fernando Sampedro Parra, Ph.D., has focused his sights on the problem and recently conducted first-of-its-kind research for the region.

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