International Visitor Blog

Animal Health Scientist from Tanzania Shares Research Experiences at Ohio State through One Health Initiative and iAGRI

Entry made by Julius Medardus. 09/02/2014

I am Julius J. Medardus, an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Veterinary Anatomy, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), Tanzania. I am a holder of Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine (BVM) and MSc. (Preventive Veterinary Medicine), all from SUA. Currently, I am a PhD student at SUA and completed a two year fellowship (March 2011- February 2013) at The Ohio State University (OSU), Columbus, Ohio as one of the inaugural “One Health” scholars through the Veterinary Public Health and Livestock Biotechnology (VPH-Biotech) consortium. I completed another research visit at Ohio State from March 2014 through June 30, 2014 as a short term visiting scholar through Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative (iAGRI) project. 

My training at the Infectious Diseases and Molecular Epidemiology Laboratory (IDMEL) at Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine was based on the use of molecular epidemiologic tools in studying the molecular epidemiology of foodborne pathogens (Salmonella, Campylobacter, Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus (MRSA)  etc) of public health importance.  My training was so successful during the 2 year period at OSU under the mentorship of Dr. Wondwossen Gebreyes, who assigned me to the following projects: (a) In-feed use of heavy metal micronutrients in U.S. swine production systems and its role in persistence of multi-drug resistant (MDR)Salmonella. and (b) The use of biocides (disinfectants) in U.S. swine production systems and its role in occurrence and persistence of biocide tolerant and MDR Salmonella.

In March 2013, I was relocated to my home country, Tanzania, to initiate my final project for my PhD at SUA under the supervision of Professor Kazwala, R. R. My PhD research project at SUA entitled “Molecular epidemiologic studies of Non-Typhoidal Salmonella enterica isolates from food animals and food of animal origin. Generally, I am very interested in the application of molecular epidemiologic tools in studying the molecular epidemiology of foodborne pathogens and antimicrobial resistance.

As my research project at SUA was progressing well, I and my mentors, applied for funding support through the Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative (iAGRI), a USAID funded food security project focused on food security in Tanzania, which agreed to extend its support. iAGRI agreed to support my 4 month fellowship at the IDMEL from March 4, 2014 through June 30, 2014.  My four months fellowship at OSU was expected to help me complete the DNA fingerprinting of Salmonella isolates obtained from the ongoing PhD research project at SUA, using the Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE). I was eventually able to screen all Salmonella isolates for presence of class I integrons and sequencing of resistance gene cassettes mobilized in the class 1 integrons of the MDR Salmonella. This study was conducted in Tanzania because the issue and magnitude of antimicrobial resistance in foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella as a significant threat to public health is not well known. Our study findings have estimated the magnitude of the antimicrobial resistance in the country. Although our study was conducted to investigate the magnitude of antimicrobial resistance in food of animal origin, this observation still holds for food of plant origin.

My PhD dissertation will be due for submission after December 30, 2015. I am thankful in my acknowledgement of iAGRI, for its indispensable support for my fellowship at OSU. This support was timely and very crucial to my study. My heartfelt thanks also goes out to iAGRI for the extended support in purchasing some supplies including PCR Thermocycler for use at SUA. I am very optimistic when I say that these supplies will be of great help at SUA, especially for those doing research on food safety. I clearly understand that production of safe food is in line with insuring more food. My area of research after PhD will continue to be on issues related to public health including production of food free from foodborne pathogens and issues of antimicrobial resistance.

Tanzanian Genomics Researcher Studies Plant DNA's Hidden Solutions

Entry made by Deogracious Protas Massawe, 08/22/2014

I am Deogracious Protas Massawe, a visiting scholar from Morogoro, Tanzania. I have worked as a Molecular biology technologist at Sokoine University of Agriculture in the Department of Crop Science and Production since 2011. I have Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology and Laboratory Sciences and completed a Master of Science in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology – in Plant Biotechnology; all at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Tanzania. My research interest focuses on the application of Molecular Biology techniques for crop improvement such as Marker Assisted Selection (MAS) in breeding for biotic and abiotic resistant crops; using Molecular Biology techniques for disease diagnosis/pathogen detection. The long term aim of this research is to enhance food security by producing more food - better food - in an environmentally sustainable manner.

I have been involved in the USAID-funded IPM-CRSP project at SUA since 2011 employing good pest management practices to horticultural crops under the guidance of the Principle Investigator of the project, Prof. Maerere A. P. Recently I have been developing the diagnostic tools, “molecular markers”, which will be used in detecting Begomovirus from the family Geminiviridae affecting tomato plants in Tanzania. I am doing this work at The Ohio State University, within the Molecular and Cellular Imaging Center (MCIC) at OARDC in Wooster, under Supervision of Dr. Tea Meulia. I have been invited here as a visiting scholar for three months under IPM-CRSP project. For the best achievement of this work I have been collaborating by doing some research activities and learning more diagnostic techniques in Plant Pathology Laboratories under Prof. Sally Miller.

At MCIC I learned several applications involved in genomics and bioinformatics, and have been able to apply the knowledge in studying the available Geminiviridae sequence in the databases. By using different software resources I managed to develop diagnostic Primers for Begomovirus diagnosis. Recently I validated the Primers I designed by using the Genomic DNA samples sent from viral symptomatic plants in Tanzania. Some of the Primers gave good results, validating the presence of the viral infection in some tomato plants; hence I am carrying out further sequencing of amplified products and troubleshooting other primers.

By gaining a greater understanding of bioinformatics, software application, genome manipulation and practice of various instruments at MCIC and at the plant pathology laboratories through my work, I am confident in applying the knowledge when I return to my post at Sokoine University of Agriculture. By doing more diagnostic work and training others, I hope to have the opportunity (scholarship) to do my PhD in Plant Biotechnology, as this knowledge will continue to be very important in the near future.