Creation of effective vaccines against diseases that have plagued animals and humans for thousands of years—particularly infections transmitted by ticks, mosquitoes, and other insects—will revolutionize life for millions of people some day.
These new vaccines will deliver significant health benefits and economic opportunities, improving lives and livelihoods worldwide, especially in developing countries.
Wendy Brown is among few researchers in the world capable of designing the life-changing vaccines needed to overcome some of our most crippling diseases. Her efforts focus on developing vaccines to stop diseases similar to human malaria. Bovine babesiosis and bovine anaplasmosis thrive in hot, tropical and semi-tropical climates, common in Africa, and both cause anemia and persistent infection in cattle.
The global cost of tick-borne diseases is estimated between $13.9 and $18.7 billion annually. In developing countries, where a typical family’s cattle herd is only three to six animals, the loss of a single cow to disease can mean premature termination of a child’s education or inability to purchase needed medicines.
Dr. Brown’s most recent research is concentrated on identifying the pathogen proteins, called antigens, that can prompt an immune response in a host infected with babesiosis or anaplasmosis. Proteins with that ability are good candidates for use in vaccines.
Helping in this quest to rapidly screen antigens is a new method developed by Dr. Brown and her WSU research team. Earlier methods required several months to produce and purify a single protein for testing. Now, dozens of proteins can be screened within a few weeks. With continued advances like these, vaccines to prevent infection or to minimize disease when infection occurs are moving ever closer to reality.
Featuring: Wendy C. Brown, M.P.H., Ph.D.
Wendy C. Brown is a professor in the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology in the College of Veterinary Medicine. She is recognized nationally and internationally for her research on T lymphocyte responses to tick-borne pathogens of cattle and for the use of T lymphocytes to identify promising vaccine antigens. T lymphocytes give animals and humans immunological memory, enabling them to thwart infectious agents that they have previously encountered. They are critically important in neutralizing pathogens, killing microbes, and for directly killing pathogen-infected cells. Dr. Brown received the Distinguished International Veterinary Immunologist Award in 2004 from the International Union of Immunological Societies. Granted every three years, the award recognizes the best veterinary immunologist in the world during that period.