Dr. Angela Arenas, an assistant professor in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Department of Veterinary Pathobiology (VTPB) has been awarded a $5 million research grant from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), a combat support agency within the United States Department of Defense (DoD), that will fund a five-year project to produce the first comprehensive study of brucellosis in the Republic of Cameroon.
As part of this study, Arenas, her team at Texas A&M, and members of the Laboratoire National Vétérinaire du Cameroun (LANAVET) in Yaoundé, Cameroon, will evaluate the prevalence of brucellosis in the North, Far-north, and West regions of the Central African nation; the team also will work to cultivate the Cameroonian government’s capacity to better prevent, detect, and respond to brucellosis.
“I am really excited to receive this grant,” Arenas said. “Our project aligns with the vision of Texas A&M and the CVM through its international outreach; it provides a great opportunity to contribute to a disease that is endemic, that has such a direct effect on Cameroonians. Because Brucella affects humans, livestock, and wildlife, this is a ‘one health’ problem.”
“This grant exemplifies the global impact of our university’s infectious disease research. Dr. Arenas is very passionate about using her research expertise to help developing countries, such as Cameroon, control brucellosis in resource-limited settings,” said Dr. Ramesh Vemulapalli, professor and VTPB department chair. “I’m very thrilled that she has secured such a large grant from the DoD to support her research program.”
Brucellosis is a highly contagious zoonotic disease that, while not as common in the United States—and practically eradicated here—occurs more frequently in Africa. The bacteria cause devastating losses to the livestock industry and small-scale holders across the African content.
“Brucellosis is considered an endemic disease, which means that people in Africa are used to living with it,” Arenas said. “Neglected diseases usually affect the most vulnerable people, often in developing countries.”
DTRA and the DoD are interested in working to better control brucellosis as it could be used in bioterrorism; reducing the incidence of the pathogen also reduces the possibility of the bacteria being used in biological warfare.
To do this, Arenas and the project team will work to develop counter measures to stop the disease’s spread by creating an improved diagnostic tool that will increase Cameroonians’ capacities for diagnosing the disease.
“We are looking to create something that is cost-effective, deployable, reliable, easy to implement, and that can be used in locations where there aren’t a lot of people,” she said. “This research will also provide us a better understanding of the situation of the disease in Cameroon that will, hopefully, allow their government to develop a good vaccination strategy to control the disease.”
In getting the project started, Arenas and her team will travel to Africa in October to help conduct the inaugural ministerial meeting, which will be attended by ministers, government officials, and other stakeholders.
As part of the sustainability component of the program, Arenas will bring doctoral students from Cameroon to Texas A&M to train them on Brucellaresearch techniques, which will enable them to share their newfound knowledge and skills with their research colleagues upon their return home.
The next phase of the project will be a comprehensive prevalence study across Cameroon, along with additional education and extension activities.
Arenas plans to publish her research findings, which she hopes will better inform future policymakers and veterinary and public health professionals.
Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Interim Director of CVM Communications, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; firstname.lastname@example.org; 979-862-4216