Inaugural Summer Scholars Program Inspires Collaboration

By Kristin Loving

Summer Scholars

Summer Scholars pictured with their mentors following their final presentations in August.

The first edition of the BCI’s, Summer Scholars program officially wrapped up on Friday, August 12th, with presentations by eight students. Each student received a $3,500 stipend to conduct a research project related to the program’s theme “Antimicrobial Use in Cattle.”

The program, designed to inspire collaboration brought together students and mentors from four colleges and six departments including animal sciences and industry, pathobiology, food science and industry, veterinary medicine, computer science and computer engineering.

Each student presented their findings at a concluding session held at the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

Allison McKiearnan, doctoral student in pathobiology, Manhattan, introduced her findings of “Foodborne pathogens in cattle” with mentor Dr. Natalia Cernicchiaro. Allison’s objective was to determine the effects of injectable antimicrobial use, on the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance in gut commensals and foodborne pathogens. The minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of 10-15 antimicrobials will be determined for each bacterial species using CLSI guidelines. At this time, only the MICs of azithromycin of E. coli isolated on day 0 and d 28 from cattle diagnosed with BRD have been determined; all of the isolates were classified as susceptible to azithromycin and there was a very low correlation (r = 0.01) between the d 0 and d 28 MIC values.

Amanda Kathrens, senior in animal sciences and industry, Manhattan, completed her project “Bacterial aspects in probiotics” with mentor Dr. T.G. Nagaraja. Her findings suggested bacterial strains present in commercial probiotic products do exhibit resistance to a wide variety of antimicrobials.  Monitoring antimicrobial resistance among bacteria contained in probiotics is important. She encouraged further research including genetic characterization of antimicrobial resistance present in these bacterial species to enhance our understanding of resistance selection and maintenance in feedlot cattle.

Sarah Jones, senior in food science and industry, Riverton, conducted a thorough investigation into historical events in “Regulatory and historical perspectives: Antimicrobial resistance” with mentor Dr. Justin Kastner. Sarah presented research regarding Dr. John Shaw Billings and the One Health concept by looking back to the late-1800s. Billings, a medical doctor and veterinary researcher, proposed to the National Board of Health that animal and human health were inextricably linked; his effort to marry the two sciences was declined. Looking at the present day, where the U.S. Food and Drug Administration antimicrobial resistance regulatory and industry-targeted documents are in the forefront of many doctor’s, veterinarian’s and researcher’s minds, the philosophical commitment of Billings is finally being expressed in the current regulatory documents where the One Health philosophy appears to be embedded.

Carlee Wollard, third-year veterinary medicine student, Winfield, studied the effect of vaccinations during gestation in beef cows in her project “Colostrum transfer of antibody titers” with mentor Dr. Manuel Chamorro. She tested blood samples before vaccination and after calving to determine levels of antibodies to common problematic diseases. Based on results from this preliminary trial, the administration of a booster multivalent KV BVDV and MLV BHV-1 vaccine to pregnant beef cows of unknown vaccination history at the end of gestation has questionable benefit as these cows might already have moderate to high levels of serum BVDV and BHV-1 antibodies at time of vaccination.  However, a booster vaccination in late gestation of cows with moderate to low serum BHV 1 specific AB titers is safe and results in seroconversion prior to calving. Furthermore, a telephone survey of Kansas cow/calf producers confirmed that calf diarrhea and respiratory disease are still the most common causes of morbidity in pre-weaned beef calves. It was also determined that the use of oral or injectable antibiotics in pre-weaned beef calves is common among cow/calf producers as more than 90% of producers reported antibiotic use.

Jose Soto, doctoral student in animal science, San Antonio, Texas, presented “Alternatives to antibiotics used in livestock,” a literature review that summarized 75 papers and 12 alternatives to antibiotics for poultry, swine and  cattle with mentor Dr. Mike Tokach. For classification purposes, the different alternatives were organized into three different classes: 1) alternatives with reported effective results (e.g. zinc, cooper), 2) alternatives with reported inconsistent results (e.g. phytogenics, probiotics) and 3) promising technologies (antimicrobial peptides, quorum sensing inhibitors). There are several available antimicrobial alternatives and it is critical to understand their applicability, limitations and precautions in order to obtain more predictable outcomes.

Paula Mendez, junior in computer science, Paraguay, interpreted and functionalized 170 million rows of data that represented positions of cattle with location monitoring tags collected every second of a 28-day period in her project “Bovine infectious disease analytics” with mentor Dr. Bill Hsu. This model allowed her to find animals that became ill and their relation to other animals in which they could have passed a disease.

Allan Jay Canatuan, senior in computer science, Williamsburg, Virginia and Kevin Manase, senior in computer engineering, Madagascar, created a mobile app for feedlot managers in their project “iOS and Android/Java mobile apps” with mentor Dr. Venkatesh-Prasad Ranganath. The pair built the app that can be used across multiple devices, which is used to compare drug costs and provide a simple calculator to evaluate potential drug choices.

“This was a successful first year of scholars program research and we observed the benefits of the multidisciplinary approach to generating research solutions. We plan to continue this program next year and bring new information to the beef value chain,” said Dr. Brad White, interim director of BCI.

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