A Focus on Animals, Near and Far, to Fight Infectious Disease

From rats in Boston to primates in Peru, Marieke Rosenbaum's research projects at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine aim to improve public health

Collaboration is key to fighting infectious disease both locally and globally, said Marieke Rosenbaum, V14, VG14, MG14, assistant professor in the Department of Infectious Disease and Global Health at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. It’s a strategy she employs in multiple research projects, whether investigating the public health threats of rats in Boston or helping women in Africa access vaccines for their livestock. 

Rats Up Close

Rosenbaum founded the Boston Urban Rat Study, a collaborative research group investigating whether rats in Boston carry pathogens that pose a risk to public health. Urban rats can carry and transmit zoonotic diseases, in which germs spread between animals and people, such as leptospirosis, hantavirus, and the bubonic plague. Rosenbaum’s work found that Boston’s rats tend not to travel far in the city and instead stay within their own burrow systems, through which they spread the bacteria that causes leptospirosis. Her research also showed evidence of a connection between leptospira isolated from Boston’s rats and leptospira that caused disease in a person in the area, as well as evidence of the potential for transmission of antimicrobial-resistant genes from rats to people.

Parasites in Primates

Rosenbaum collaborates with wildlife and primate conservation organizations in Peru to investigate how trafficking nonhuman primates can spread parasites and diseases to people and and other animals. Non-human primates can acquire infections such as the herpes virus or possibly COVID-19 and share them with people. She and several colleagues recently conducted a screening for zoonotic infections in monkeys in nine Peruvian cities and detected 32 different zoonotic pathogens.

Vaccines for Livestock

Around the world, millions of women keep livestock as a source of income. However, losing animals to diseases such as Newcastle disease in chickens and peste des petits ruminants (PPR) in goats can destroy women’s livelihoods. To understand why some women cannot access the vaccines to protect their animals, Rosenbaum has traveled to Kenya to assist with the SheVax+ project, a regional women’s empowerment and livestock vaccine initiative.  She was a co-author on two recently published papers that examined the deficit in representation of women along the livestock-vaccine supply chain and the sense of empowerment women felt when they could access vaccines and keep their animals healthy.

Back to Top