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Message from the WSU Senior Director of Global Health Spring 2017

Who would even think to investigate whether there’s a link between cattle vaccination rates and girls’ high school attendance, asked National Public Radio. We would. As you will read in this newsletter, Dr. Tom Marsh, who is jointly appointed in the School of Economic Sciences and the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, led an interdisciplinary research team to learn how households decide whether to vaccinate for East Coast fever, a leading cause of cattle illness and death in East Africa. The team quantified the economic benefits of vaccine adoption, but took it one step further to estimate how those financial gains were then used for broader societal goals, including investment in childhood education. This study, which is ranked in the top 5 percent of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric, exemplifies two of the founding principles of the Allen School. First, that innovative technology such as the vaccines and drugs that our scientists research only makes a difference if used. Thus, understanding the decisions that drive people to adopt (or not adopt) these products is essential for ensuring our innovation has real-world impact. The second principle is our commitment to interdisciplinary approaches and the integration of social and economic sciences with biomedical research. Meeting our goal of improving public health and enhancing human opportunity requires the expertise found in a comprehensive research university. The work by Marsh and colleagues demonstrates the impact when disciplines work on a common challenge.
Guy Palmer
Creighton Endowed Chair and WSU Senior
Director of Global Health

Student and Fellow News Spring 2017

Jinxin Liu, one of the Allen School’s most recent doctoral graduates, found that antibiotic resistant E. coli are distributed unevenly in soil samples for 14 Washington state dairies. He also monitored E. coli at the WSU dairy and learned that the density of bacteria did not change much from season to season. Together, these findings show that because some locations on farms have predictably greater numbers of antibiotic resistant bacteria, these areas present a greater chance of transmission to other animals and people. His findings could provide new opportunities for reducing the risk of transmission, including improvements to handling waste from areas with higher levels of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Faculty News Spring 2017

Kelly Brayton, a professor of microbial genomics in the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology and in the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, has been elected as Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Fellows are elected by their AAAS peers because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

Allison James has joined the faculty of the Allen School as a Clinical Research Professor. Her interests include interdisciplinary research on food security, nutrition, and maternal and child health, in particular investigating the impact of specific livestock diseases on household animal source food consumption and child anthropometric measures in East Africa.

Vaccinating increases family wealth, girls’ education

A Maasai man herds grazing cattle.

Vaccinating increases family wealth, girls’ education

by Marcia Hill Gossard ’99, ‘04

A Washington State University-led research team found households in rural Africa that vaccinate their cattle for East Coast fever increased their income and spent the additional money on food and education. Researchers also found that when fewer cattle died from the fever, girls were more likely to attend secondary school.

“When households vaccinate, it increases their wealth and income and sets them on a trajectory to provide education for their children,” said lead author Tom Marsh, professor in WSU’s School of Economic Sciences and the PaulG. Allen School for Global Animal Health.“Vaccinating is a way for households to pull themselves out of poverty.”

“And it has an intergenerational effect ifa family can spend more of their resources on education, especially for girls,” he said.

More milk, fewer antibiotics

Published this week in the journal Science Advances (, the study foundthat vaccinating increased a household’sincome because fewer cattle died anddisease free cattle produced more milkto feed the family or could be sold in themarketplace.

Households also saved money because vaccinated cattle did not need as many antibiotic treatments or to be sprayed as often for ticks, which spread the disease. “We are interested in understanding how the health of livestock translates into household decisions and meets sustainable development goals,” said Marsh. “For example, concern about loss of milk production drives the adoption of vaccines because it is so important to households and children.”

Leading cause of calf death

Caused by the parasite Theileria parva,East Coast fever is spread from diseased cattle to healthy cattle through tick bites.The disease can spread quickly and infect cattle throughout the community.“East Coast fever is one of the most devastating cattle diseases,” said Marsh.“It is the leading cause of calf death in East Africa.”For pastoral families, cattle are a main source of income. Losing even one to disease can negatively affect an entire family

Broader implications for antibiotic resistance

Households that vaccinated used fewer antibiotics to treat animals, so the widespread adoption of vaccinations could have larger global health benefits. “We need to think long term about the use of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance, as well as vaccines,” said Marsh. “If organizations are going to invest more money on vaccines, then besides the known effects—such as fewer cattle deaths—we need to understand the indirect effects.“Developing better vaccines and easier ways to distribute them could have broad societal effects,” he said.

Notes from the Field

Ashley Railey (fourth from left) with members of the Serengeti survey team (back, l-r) Loserian
Ole Maoi, Emmanuel Sindoya, Isaya Ole Seki, and (front) Victor Sianga.

“Notes from the Field,” a biannual column in The Global Health Perspective, features personal accounts by Allen School scientists and gives a first-hand glimpse of the work they are doing to help the lives of people and their animals.

Using Household Surveys to Understand Disease Control

by Ashley Railey, doctoral student in the Allen School

Habari za asubuhi dada (good morning sister)! It is a little before 7:00 in the morning and the survey team slowly starts appearing at my residence ready to start another day in the field. The driver helps me load the charged computers, extra batteries, backup paper surveys, the paper visual aids, GPS devices, and peanut butter and jelly bag lunches into the car. Today we have a two-hour drive to the border of Tanzania and Kenya where we will ask 25 households to complete surveys.

Our research, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Program for Enhancing the Health and Productivity of Livestock, addresses the socioeconomic conditions, such as a household’s livestock keeping practices and education level, that contribute to infectious disease. We are performing surveys on smallholder farmer willingness to pay for emerging control options for foot and mouth disease in cattle. It is one of numerous diseases prevalent in Tanzanian livestock, and one of the most economically damaging and contagious. Hooved animals like cattle, sheep, and goats become infected with lesions on the mouth, feet, or mammary glands resulting in production losses, miscarriages caused by the disease, and even death in young animals. Because cattle provide income for many Tanzanian households from milk and animal sales, in addition to draught power for farming, foot and mouth disease can have severe economic effects on the smallholder farmer.

Which is what brings us to the border of Tanzania and Kenya today. Njoroy is one of ten randomly selected villages in Northern Tanzania where we are collecting household survey data. Each day team members will complete approximately 5–6 surveys, taking anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours, depending on the household. Today, I go along with Loserian, a Masaai enumerator who will help me understand the exchange by translating from Maa into Swahili or English.

As I walk with Loserian and one of the community members commissioned to introduce us to households, we discuss the challenges facing Tanzanian cattle owners. Both men own cattle and have had to adjust their pastoralist practices to address an evolving world. Once they owned many cattle that could roam the land freely, but lands are disappearing and efficient productivity is more important. The men discuss the importance of keeping livestock healthy because a family can no longer rely on having hundreds more cattle to fill the spot of one dying. They tell me that foot and mouth disease is particularly challenging because the available treatments do not work, and their livestock continue to become infected. Hearing this without even using a survey to probe for answers, it becomes apparent that while they live with the disease, that does not mean they would not jump at a chance to cure it if possible.

This is what qualitative data and surveys provide us with, an insight into the everyday lives of the people and decision-making process. It is one thing to create a vaccine knowing it provides accurate results, but an entirely different thing for people to use the vaccine. The surveys help identify the factors influencing willingness to pay for vaccinations and diagnostic testing, but the conversations in between the surveys help us understand the people behind those decisions.

Ashley Railey, a doctoral student in the Allen School, spent three months in Tanzania collecting data to assess whether farmers are willing to pay for vaccinations and diagnostic testing for foot and mouth disease in cattle. Railey spent six months taking classes at the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology in Arusha, Tanzania before conducting surveys for basic household demographics, livestock movements, and household willingness to pay for disease control methods. She also taught survey participants about the complexity of the disease through visual aids and discussions.

Faculty News

M. Kariuki Njenga, research professor in the Allen School, has been awarded $3.4 million from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for infectious disease surveillance in human and animal populations, antimicrobial resistance studies, and efforts to determine the presence of the Zika virus in Kenya. The money will fund the first year of a five-year cooperative agreement with the CDC titled “Conducting Communicable Disease Research in Kenya.” Allen School co-investigators are Douglas Call, Eric Lofgren, Tom Marsh, Terry McElwain, and Jon Yoder.