March 15, 2015


 Robertson honored for achievements in microbiology

Conference highlights work of animal disease researchers

​Posted Feb. 25, 2015

Approximately 400 people attended the 95th annual meeting of the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Diseases, Dec. 7-9, 2014, in Chicago.

The national meeting was dedicated to Donald C. Robertson, PhD, who retired as professor emeritus of microbiology from Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008. 

Donald C. Robertson, PhD

After earning his doctorate in biochemistry from Iowa State University in 1967, Dr. Robertson joined the Department of Biochemistry at Michigan State University for a postdoctoral fellowship focused on purification and characterization of proteins. In 1970, he moved to the faculty in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Kansas, where he remained until taking a position as head of microbiology and biochemistry at the University of Idaho in 1992.

Six years later, Dr. Robertson accepted a position as associate director of research and extension in the Idaho Experiment Station. In 2000, he moved to KSU as associate dean for research and graduate studies and professor of microbiology in the veterinary college. Dr. Robertson returned to full-time research and teaching from 2005 until his retirement.

Dr. Robertson’s early research at Kansas focused on mechanisms used by Brucella abortus and other facultative intracellular bacteria to survive within phagocytic cells and, often, grow at a rate similar to that when in complex media. He characterized sugar transport systems, the erythritol catabolic pathway, and lipopolysaccharides associated with smooth and rough strains of B abortus, along with the association, ingestion, degranulation, and killing reactions of polymorphonuclear leukocytes incubated with smooth and rough strains of B abortus. His investigations also determined the brucellacidal activity of PMN granule extracts against smooth virulent and rough avirulent strains.

Later, Dr. Robertson’s laboratory studied the pathogenesis of enterotoxigenic Escherchia coli. The primary focus was on two kinds of enterotoxins that cause watery diarrhea and are produced after adherence of ETEC to small intestinal cells. Research was also conducted to determine virulence factors associated with atypical strains of Yersinia entercolitica that do not produce a classical heat-stable enterotoxin; these bacteria are isolated from patients with diarrheal disease.


Life membership in CRWAD was awarded to David H. Francis, PhD, Brookings, South Dakota; Dr. Y.M. Saif, Wooster, Ohio; Dr. Helen M. Acland, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Dr. Douglas Rogers, Lincoln, Nebraska; and Dr. John Prescott, Guelph, Ontario.

The 2015 CRWAD officers are Drs. Roman R. Ganta, Manhattan, Kansas, president; Laurel J. Gershwin, Davis, California, vice president; and David A. Benfield, Wooster, Ohio, executive director. Dr. Benfield succeeds Robert P. Ellis, PhD, who resigned after 27 years in the position with CRWAD.

AVEPM awards

The Association for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine presented the 2014 Calvin Schwabe Award to Dr. Roger Morris, emeritus professor of animal health at Massey University in New Zealand.

Dr. Morris is one of the world’s leading veterinary epidemiologists, with an outstanding global profile as a researcher, educator, and policy adviser. He has had a major impact on the veterinary profession and society through his work on epidemiologic surveillance, animal health economics, use of information technology in epidemiologic decision making, and capacity building of veterinary services around the world.

Dr. Morris has been influential in the development of evidence-based policy and disease control in many countries as well as for the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Bank.

He has played a key role in veterinary epidemiology’s recognition as a scientific discipline with direct impact on animal disease risk management. In doing so, the AVEPM said, Dr. Morris has made an enormous contribution toward the global community being able to more effectively deal with new and emerging disease threats associated with the continuing globalization of trade in animals and animal-derived products.

In addition, Dr. Morris has helped change standards and legislation to incorporate evidence- and risk-based approaches. Since 1969, Dr. Morris has advised governments, international organizations, research institutions, and industry bodies on animal health and the impacts of animal diseases on human health.

Recipients of the AVEPM student awards were as follows: Epidemiology and Animal Health Economics/Companion Animal Epidemiology category, oral—Dixie Mollenkopf, The Ohio State University, for “Extended-spectrum cephalosporin resistant nontyphoidal Salmonella recovered from clinical human infections in Ohio, USA”; Andreia G. Arruda, University of Guelph, for “Disease investigation using data from a PRRS area regional control and elimination (ARC&E) project in Ontario, Canada”; and Liesel G. Schneider, Mississippi State University, for “The effect of morbidity on weaning weight of beef calves.” Food and Environmental Safety category—Charley A. Cull, Kansas State University, for “Feedlot- and pen-level prevalence of Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli in feces of commercial feedlot cattle.” Poster—Mythri Viswanathan, University of Guelph, for “Molecular and statistical analysis of Campylobacter spp carriage and antimicrobial resistance in mammalian wildlife and livestock species from Ontario farms (2010).”

The Mark Gearhart Award for best manuscript in epidemiology and preventive medicine was presented to Noelle R. Noyes, Colorado State University, for “Mannheimia haemolytica in feedlot cattle: associations with antimicrobial use, resistance and health outcomes.”


The American Association of Veterinary Immunologists presented Hyun Soon Lillehoj, PhD, with the 2014 Distinguished Veterinary Immunologist Award. Dr. Lillehoj has worked for the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service since 1984 and is currently a senior research immunologist.

Dr. Lillehoj’s research has focused on the immunobiology of host-pathogen interactions, vaccine development, mucosal immunology, immunogenetics, and development of antibiotic alternative strategies. She developed the first set of mouse monoclonal antibodies to detect chicken lymphocyte subpopulations that have been commercialized and used by poultry scientists worldwide and have been instrumental for investigation of avian cell–mediated immunity.

More recently, Dr. Lillehoj constructed the first chicken intestinal cDNA microarray, which has been of seminal importance in national and international poultry genomics research, and developed and commercialized many novel antibiotic alternative strategies.

Recipients of the AAVI student awards were as follows: First place, oral—Vengai Mavangira, Michigan State University, for “Oxylipid profiles in biological samples of dairy cows with coliform mastitis.” Second place, oral—Jose J. Rivera Rivas, University of Wisconsin, for “Effects of conditioned media from Histophilus somni infected bovine brain endothelial cells on fibrin deposition and Factor Xa activity of bovine neutrophils.” Third place, oral—Drew Magstadt, Iowa State University, for “Evaluation of cross-protection in Fostera PRRSV vaccinated conventional swine challenged with a contemporary, heterologous lineage 9 PRRSV field isolate.” Poster, first place—Valerie E. Ryman, Michigan State University, for “Quantification of oxylipid profiles in bovine mammary tissue and milk during Streptococcus uberis mastitis.” Poster, second place—Kh. Shamsur Rahman, Auburn University, for “Highly accurate prediction of immunodominant B-cell epitopes of Chlamydia species using physicochemical and evolutionary properties of proteins.” Poster, third place—Haiyan Sun, University of Nebraska, for “Induction of type-I interferons by a synthetic porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus strain.”

ACVM awards

The American College of Veterinary Microbiologists named Dr. Siba K. Samal the Distinguished Veterinary Microbiologist of 2014. Dr. Samal has been chair of the University of Maryland’s Department of Veterinary Medicine and associate dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine since 2001.

Over the years, Dr. Samal has worked on bluetongue virus, bovine respiratory syncytial virus, aquareovirus, Newcastle disease virus, and other avian paramyxoviruses. His current research is focused on developing avian paramyxovirus–vectored vaccines for human and animal diseases.

A diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists and a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, Dr. Samal has authored or co-authored more than 160 refereed scientific publications, more than 120 published abstracts, and 13 book chapters. He edited a book titled “The Biology of Paramyxoviruses” and is currently the editor of four scientific journals.

The ACVM student awards were presented to the following recipients: Don Kahn Award—V. Shivanna, Kansas State University, for “Characterization of entry events during bile acid–mediated porcine enteric calicivirus replication.” Oral—B.L. Petruzzi, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, for “Characterization of biofilm formation by Pasteurella multocida.” Poster—K. Ouyang, The Ohio State University, for “Comparative analysis of routes of immunization of a live PRRS virus vaccine in a heterologous virus challenge model.”

Other awards

The Society for Tropical Veterinary Medicine presented its student award to Arathy D.S. Nair, Kansas State University, for “Real-time PCR assay validation for detecting Rickettsia rickettsii infections in dogs and ticks.”

The American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists presented its student award to Benjamin Blair, University of Illinois, for “Investigation into horn fly burden susceptibility in Holstein heifers.”

The NC-1202 Enteric Diseases of Food Animals: Enhanced Prevention, Control and Food Safety Awards were presented to the following students: Lynn Joens Memorial Award, first place, oral—Lance W. Noll, Kansas State University, for “Pooling of immunomagnetic separation beads does not affect sensitivity of detection of seven serogroups of Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli in cattle feces.” Second place, oral—Jake R. Elder, Washington State University, for “Identification and characterization of immune-modulatory CpG motifs of Salmonella.” David Francis Award, poster—Govardhan Rathnaiah, University of Nebraska, for “Comparative analysis of IS1096- and Himar1-derived transposon insertion sites in Mycobacterium avium subsp paratuberculosis.”

The Biosafety and Biosecurity Awards, sponsored by the Animal Health Institute and the Joseph J. Garbarino Foundation, were presented to the following students: Hind Kasab-Bachi, University of Guelph, for “Prevalence, genotypes, and risk factors for Clostridium perfringens among Ontario broiler chicken flocks”; Anna C. Fagre, Colorado State University, for “Improved characterization of Salmonella enterica shedding among reptile patients at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital”; and Kelsey L. Spence, University of Guelph, for “Using social network analysis to understand epidemic potential in equine populations: a pilot study.”