Esmeraldas Province, Ecuador
Instituto de Microbiología, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador
Research Focus: antimicrobial resistance, livestock system and zoonotic enteropathogen transmission
The partnership between UC Berkeley and Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) dates back more than fifteen years, where we initially worked to understand how changes in the social and natural environment, mediated by road construction, affect the epidemiology of pathogens causing diarrheal diseases, and the spread of antimicrobial resistance. With our partners at UC Berkeley (NSF award PI: Professor Justin Remais and NIH award PI: Project Scientist Josefina Coloma), and USFQ (Ecuador PI: Prof Gabriel Trueba), we are currently examining the role of plasmids in antimicrobial resistance gene transmission in order to elucidate the mechanisms of horizontal gene transfer among commensal E. coli transmitted between domestic animals and children. The team’s initial work has identified plasmids, rather than dissemination of clonal E. coli strains, as the primary mechanism by which antimicrobial resistance is spread between children and animals, including within small-scale livestock and poultry production systems that are widespread in low- and middle-income countries.
Our study area is located in the Ecuadorian province of Quito and comprises six rural parroquias east of Quito, and approximately 60 neighborhoods. At USFQ, Dr. Gabriel Trueba, a veterinary microbiologist by training, directs the Microbiology Institute, and currently serves as the local PI on three NIH research awards. Potential research areas for Fogarty Global Health fellowships at this research site include examining how economic, social and psychological factors drive the inappropriate use of antimicrobials in small- and large-scale food-animal production systems; how genetic elements, including plasmids, integrons and transposons, affect the dissemination of resistance genes between bacterial strains, species and genera, particularly in food animal production systems—from small- to industrial-scale; and how small-scale livestock systems affect zoonotic enteropathogen transmission among infants and young children who are vulnerable.