Posted December 14, 2023
Featuring Catalina Picasso
Catalina Picasso Risso

Catalina Picasso Risso, an assistant professor in Large Animal Clinical Sciences, recently won a Scialog Collaborative Innovation Award as part of the Scialog: Mitigating Zoonotic Threats initiative. This award means Picasso will receive $50,000 to launch new research in the detection and mitigation of emerging animal-borne infectious diseases. These funds come from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Scialog (short for science + dialogue) Mitigating Zoonotic Threats initiative consisted of three meetings in which individuals from a variety of disciplines came together to discuss mitigation techniques for animal-borne diseases. Teams of two to three Fellows who have not previously collaborated then competed for seed funding for high-risk, high-reward projects based on the ideas they developed at the conference.

Picasso’s project centers around bovine tuberculosis (bTB), which is currently a threat to the wildlife-livestock-humans interface. With her research, Picasso aims to investigate if wild pigs could be a new potential reservoir host for bTB in the continental US (as seen in Hawaii). Thus, she will characterize the likelihood of contact between wild pig and existing reservoirs of bTB (i.e., cattle) with differential risks across heterogeneous areas. She will use analytical tools to identify high-risk areas for disease spill-over to wild pigs. Once those areas are identified, different arrays of M. bovis antigens will be used with the goal to assess and, with the application of Bayesian statistical models, quantify their potential as ancillary diagnostic test for bTB surveillance among wild pigs. This data can increase the efficiency of current surveillance strategies and enable a rapid response should a spillover event be detected.

“This award is very exciting because, in collaboration with a strong team of researchers from Oklahoma, Arizona, and USDA-APHIS, we will be able to study and identify bTB sources of spread across the U.S. that were not addressed before,” says Picasso. “I am thrilled about the impact that this research can have not only in advancing our comprehension of bTB transmission across various wildlife species in the U.S. but also in shaping effective strategies for controlling and preventing its spread right here in Michigan.”

Dr. Annette O’Connor, chairperson of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, adds, “Dr. Picasso has recently joined us here at CVM and is already making her mark. This research project is particularly exciting as it aims to improve the efficiency of current surveillance strategies, which then in turn, results in prompt and effective responses to potential spillover events—a factor critical to our producers. Dr. Picasso's efforts could significantly contribute to controlling bTB spread, benefiting both animal and human populations in Michigan and locally.”

Read the full announcement.