Oceans Apart, A World Together: Texas A&M One Health Interdisciplinary Team Visits China
Posted July 26, 2016
From left: Dr. Brandon Dominguez, Dr.
Christine Budke, Dr. Clay Ashley, Dr. Chad Paulk, and Dr. Rosina C.
“Tammi” Krecek at the Great Wall of China (Photo by Dr. Rosina C.
For many across the globe, pork is a
vital source of protein. In China, the production and export of
pork and pork products have increased as a result of the nation’s
growing economy. Swine diseases can cause fluctuations
and international markets for pork and can negatively affect both
human and animal health. As a result, there has been increased
focus on food safety and the prevention of pathogens entering the
To begin a discussion about food safety
as it relates to pork, faculty members from the Texas A&M
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and
the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (COALS) travelled to
China to participate in a two-week scientific exchange trip in July
2015. The purpose of the trip was to identify future collaborations
in the prevention of swine diseases, many of which can be
transmitted to humans. This undertaking was an example of the One
Health philosophy in action. Texas A&M’s One Health mission is
to find interdisciplinary health solutions by combining expertise
from human health, animal health, and environmental health
The five Texas A&M researchers who
participated in this U.S.–China Scientific Cooperation Exchange
Program, which was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA) and the China Ministry of Agriculture, were Dr. Rosina C.
“Tammi” Krecek, a parasitologist and visiting professor at the CVM
and interim assistant dean of One Health;
Dr. Christine M. Budke,
an epidemiologist and associate professor at the CVM; Dr. Clay
Ashley, director of the Veterinary Medical Park and chair of the
International Program Advisory Committee; Dr. Brandon Dominguez, a
swine health specialist and assistant professor at the CVM; and Dr.
Chad Paulk, an animal nutritionist and assistant professor at
Developing the Team
Before coming to Texas A&M, Ashley
lived in China for five years. There he worked in agricultural
development in Guizhou, where he encountered farmers raising pigs
infected with the pork tapeworm, Taenia solium. This
parasite causes neurological disease in humans. Krecek has
participated in extensive international research on this tapeworm,
and one of her areas of expertise is infectious and parasitic
diseases impacting resource-poor communities. Budke also has
international experience, including in China, and studies animal
diseases transmissible to humans. Dominguez is
a swine health
specialist and clinical veterinarian with experience in
epidemiology. Paulk is a swine nutritionist.
Through exchanging ideas and best
team believes that the relationships established
this exchange will build capacity and expand markets for
pork, as well as support the country’s growing agricultural
enterprises. There are additional benefits for both countries; this
dialogue is leading to a better understanding of opportunities and
solutions to swine diseases.
“Swine production has become a big issue
in terms of the world’s food supply,” said Budke.
One Health in Action
In China, the group travelled to
Beijing, Chengdu (Sichuan Province), and Lanzhou (Gansu Province).
Their main objectives were to explore new research collaborations
in pork production, swine nutritional issues, zoonotic swine
diseases, and pathogen contamination prevention.
Members of the U.S.-China Scientific
Cooperation Exchange Program in front of the Yangtze River in
Lanzhou (Gansu Province) (Photo by Dr. Rosina C.“Tammi”
The team began their trip in Beijing,
visiting the College of Veterinary Medicine at the China
Agricultural University, the School of Public Health at Peking
University, and the China Center for Disease Control. Scientists,
professors, and physicians at the institutions met with the team to
share swine disease concerns in both countries and how to translate
research into education and outreach.
The group travelled south to the Sichuan
Center for Disease Control and the College of Veterinary Medicine
at the Sichuan Agricultural University in Chengdu. Both Texas
A&M faculty and their Chinese colleagues presented seminars
about their research and educational programs.
At the Lanzhou Veterinary Research
Institute in Gansu Province, the team interacted with graduate
students and senior institute members. “There we were in the middle
of China talking to next-generation scientists who are focused on
the future. It was very exciting,” said Krecek.
Travelling from eastern China to western
provinces, the team observed different One Health perspectives. In
rural regions, the topics discussed concentrated on agricultural
production problems, while in other locations swine disease
affecting minority groups became the main issue.
Differences between American and Chinese
veterinary medicine practice also became apparent while travelling
across the region. “The veterinary profession in China is very
different than in the United States,” Ashley explained. “In the
eastern part of China, where the big cities are, their
veterinarians are focused on small animals. Those veterinarians are
well trained like western veterinarians, but in less-developed
parts of China, veterinarians are perceived to have less technical
The visit helped strengthen existing
partnerships and establish new ones related to infectious and
parasitic diseases and swine nutritional issues. A possible
exchange program between Texas A&M and the China Agricultural
University may also lead to advancements in the One Health
Initiative. “In the spirit of One Health, future collaborations
will not involve only
a single person, or even a single
discipline,” Budke stated. “We will need to bring together
individuals from multiple disciplines in both countries.”
Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of
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979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)
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