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.
Creighton Endowed Chair and WSU Senior
Director of Global Health
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.
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.
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 (http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/12/e1601410), 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.