Both infectious diseases are considered to be potential biological warfare agents and have been identified by the Department of Health and Human Services as “top priorities for development of medical countermeasures.”
The researchers will work at UGA’s Animal Health Research Center and test whether vaccination can protect mice in an aerosol model of infection.
“These bacteria can infect by gaining entry through the nose and mouth and then adhering to the mucosal linings of the respiratory tract,” said bacteriologist Eric Lafontaine, Ph.D., co-principal investigator with immunologist Jeff Hogan, Ph.D., both in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Essentially we’re trying to identify the proteins that make the bacterium stick and then trying to counteract their ability to attach and cause infection.”
Glanders, caused by the bacterium Burkholderia mallei, is endemic in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and South America. It primarily affects horses, donkeys and mules, but it can also affect goats, dogs and cats. Though rare in humans, cases do occur sporadically among individuals who have direct contact with infected animals, according to UGA.
Melioidosis, caused by the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei, is endemic to Southeast Asia and Northern Australia. It can infect animals and humans through the skin, ingestion or inhalation after contact with contaminated water and soils.