The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) will lead a three-year, up to $2 million project to enhance understanding of the burden of brucellosis and main modes of disease transmission, as well as behavioral risk factors and gender dimensions in livestock and human populations in East Africa. Research results will help inform health policy options for disease prevention and control using a “One Health” approach. This initiative will target Rwanda and Kenya, with selected capacity to strengthen activities in Uganda.
“Feed the Future Innovation Labs are driving novel solutions to the increasingly complex challenges we face today,” said Dina Esposito, Feed the Future deputy coordinator and USAID’s assistant to the administrator for resilience, environment, and food security. “USAID is pleased to see this collaborative effort tackle a disease that is all too often neglected but is a real threat to the health and livelihoods of small-scale farmers and their families.”
In livestock, Brucella spp. infection can cause abortion and decreased milk yield. Brucella spp. infection can be transmitted to humans through the consumption of unpasteurized milk or milk products from an infected animal, as well as direct contact with infected animals, particularly aborted fetuses. In humans, disease symptoms include fever, sweat, headache and fatigue.
The UF/IFAS team will partner with the Feed the Future Animal Health Innovation Lab at Washington State University and the University of Nairobi in Kenya, as well as researchers from the University of Rwanda and Makerere University in Uganda.
The project is led by Dr. Jorge Hernandez within the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine at UF. Dr. Hernandez has conducted brucellosis research in livestock and human populations in the United States, Mexico and Rwanda, and has led research and capacity strengthening activities on disease management as part of the Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems since its establishment in 2015.
According to Hernandez, brucellosis remains a critical priority for animal and public health authorities in East Africa due to its socio-economic and public health impact—including forced unemployment in infected adults, educational inequity in infected children due to school absenteeism, cost of treatment in humans, reduced livestock-related household income and access to milk and trade interruption of animals and animal products. In addition to investing in research and policy, the project will support human and institutional capacities in the livestock and public health sectors at the local, national and regional levels in target countries.
UF/IFAS, through its Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems, has been conducting research in East Africa since 2016 and welcomes the opportunity to further strengthen its research with African universities as well as with the Feed the Future Animal Health Innovation Lab.
“We are excited to directly collaborate with the Animal Health Innovation Lab which has a strong footprint in East Africa,” said Geoffrey Dahl, the director of the Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems. “Hopefully this is the first step for more joined research projects by two or more Innovation Labs.”
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.