Antibiotic resistant bacteria are a major threat to human and animal health- and the problem is global. This past fall Deogratius Mshanga, a research scientist at the Veterinary Investigative Centre in Arusha, Tanaznia, came to the Allen School to gain hands-on experience with detecting antimicrobial resistance in bacteria. Dr. Doug Call, professor in the Allen School, is training scientists like Dr. Mshanga to better understand antimicrobial resistance and recognize the genetic mechanisms involved. Dr. Mstanga will then take this knowledge back to local research communities to help scientists study why antibiotic resistance occurs, how it spreads, and how to control it.
The unregulated use of antibiotics in many resource poor countries contributes to the spread of antibiotic resistant microbes. But Dr. Call’s research at the Allen School has found that it is not just antibiotic use that contributes to this problem. Resistance can be found even when antibiotics are not being used.
"We have cases where resistance continues in agriculture production because the genes that cause resistance are linked with other traits that give them an advantage in these environments," explained Dr. Call. "Microbes can retain resistance genes for extended periods of time while disseminating to many populations of animals and humans."
Because understanding the persistence of antibiotic resistance is so complex, having someone like Dr. Mshanga working with local research teams will help make big strides in reducing antimicrobial resistance. Dr. Mshanga will return to Tanzania and work as a field coordinator for an Allen School sponsored research project.
"Having an experienced field person is invaluable," said Dr. Call. "Because he knows the culture and the social and physical landscape, Dr. Mshanga brings enormous benefits to this research."
To date Dr. Call has trained scientists from Tanzania, Kenya, and Nigeria in the Allen School. Tanzania is a place where locally raised domestic livestock, people, and wildlife live in close proximity, so it offers a unique research opportunity.
"Resistance traits can enter through the introduction of new stock into a herd and these bacteria can then be shared between humans and animals," said Dr. Call. "In a place like Tanzania where people and animals lives are tied so closely, we learn much more about the ecology of antibiotic resistance to benefit both local and broader communities."
To learn more, visit the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health website.Return to Newsletter