LSU AgCenter receives grant for livestock disease project in Kazakhstan

Courtesy: USDA / MGN

BATON ROUGE, La. (LSU AgCenter) - Two LSU AgCenter scientists will mentor researchers in Kazakhstan and work with them to learn more about two serious livestock diseases as part of a grant-funded project.

The U.S. Department of Defense grant was awarded in October to Phil Elzer, an AgCenter associate vice president who has extensive experience in livestock diseases, and Sue Hagius, an AgCenter research associate. They, along with a University of Connecticut scientist, will conduct lectures and hands-on training exercises at the Research Institute for Biological Safety Problems in Kordaiskiy, Kazakhstan, later this summer.

The collaborative project focuses on brucellosis and bluetongue virus, two infectious diseases prevalent in the southern portion of the former Soviet republic in Central Asia. The area is home to many cattle, sheep and goat herds.

Guillermo Risatti, the University of Connecticut scientist, will handle the bluetongue aspect of the project. Elzer and Hagius will concentrate their efforts on brucellosis, a bacterial disease that both animals and humans can contract.

Brucellosis is devastating, as it frequently causes reduced milk production and abortions in animals. People who work with infected animals or animal products can get sick, too.

The disease was eradicated in American cattle in the 1990s, and it generally is not considered a threat to ruminants in the U.S. It remains, however, a major problem in developing countries.

Brucellosis was somewhat controlled in Kazakhstan years ago but has reemerged in force since the fall of the Soviet Union.

In addition to providing training, Elzer and Hagius will test blood samples currently being collected by the Kazakh research institute to determine how widespread brucellosis is in that region and to identify which strains of the disease are present. They also will try to find out if there is a link between disease incidence and factors such as traditional husbandry practices and contact with wildlife.

Having a clear picture of brucellosis prevalence is key to implementing effective control programs, said Elzer, who has participated in similar research projects in Kazakhstan and other former Soviet republics for more than a decade.

“Our trip this summer also will allow us the opportunity to introduce new technologies and safety protocols to our partners in Kazakhstan,” Elzer said. “We are hopeful we will learn new things, too. This is a chance to simultaneously share and build the AgCenter’s expertise in a way that benefits people around the world.”

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