A Texas A&M researcher has received a $5 million grant to improve diagnostic tools and develop vaccination strategies to fight brucellosis in the Republic of Cameroon.

Angela Arenas, an assistant professor in the A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences will travel to Cameroon with her team later this month to kick off the five-year project with a meeting among government officials and ministers. Throughout the process, Arenas will bring doctoral students from Cameroon to A&M so they can research brucella and share the information with other researchers when they go home, according to a release. 

The team is made up of A&M researchers and members of the Laboratoire National Vétérinaire du Cameroun, located in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The grant was awarded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Brucellosis, a highly contagious disease, is mostly eradicated in the United States but is still extremely common in Africa. 

“Our project aligns with the vision of Texas A&M and the CVM through its international outreach, and it provides a great opportunity to contribute to a disease that is endemic, that has such a direct effect on Cameroonians,” Arenas said in a press release. “Because brucella affects humans, livestock and wildlife, this is a ‘one health’ problem.”

The infectious disease is most common in sheep, cattle, goats, pigs and dogs, according to the CDC. People can be infected if they come in contact with an infected animal or if they consume products contaminated with the bacteria. People usually contract brucellosis if they eat or drink unpasteurized dairy products. The bacteria has cause massive losses of livestock in Africa in the past.

“Brucellosis is considered an endemic disease, which means that people in Africa are used to living with it,” Arenas said in a release. “Neglected diseases usually affect the most vulnerable people, often in developing countries.”

Arenas said she hopes her team can help people in Cameroon with an improved diagnostic tool that is affordable, reliable and easy to implement in areas that may not have high populations.

“This research will also provide us a better understanding of the situation of the disease in Cameroon that will, hopefully, allow their government to develop a good vaccination strategy to control the disease,” she said in a release.

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