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Summer Research Project Examines Organic Chicken

Wittum Summer ResearchResearchers in veterinary medicine are
spending their summer buying organic and antibiotic-free chicken from stores in
Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania and analyzing it for strains of bacteria such
as Salmonella.

“Many products imply that ‘organic’ is
healthier,” said Dr. Thomas Wittum, “but few studies have challenged those
marketing claims on the actual health benefits of organic and even so-called
‘antibiotic-free’ meat products.”

The trend toward organic food products
is in part driven by concerns about antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic
resistance, especially to beta lactam antibiotics, including penicillin
derivatives, can occur as the result of the acquisition of a gene encoding for
the production of beta lactamase enzymes, thus rendering the antibiotics
useless.

Dr. Wittum’s research team includes summer
research
students Erin Bryant and Johana Cenera, who also holds a Master’s
in Veterinary Public Health (VPH),
VPH student Christy King, and lab manager Dixie Mollenkopf. The results of
their study may offer insights for public health policy. Johana and Erin will
travel to Colorado State University this August to present the study’s
preliminary findings at the Merial NIH Symposium and will also present a
research poster at the college at the end of the summer research program.

Dr. Wittum has done extensive research
investigating the epidemiology of antimicrobial resistance, Salmonella, and E. coli in food producing animals in conjunction with various
collaborators in the college including Dr. Josh Daniels, assistant professor
in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, and Dr. Wondwossen Gebreyes, professor in the Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine and
director of Global Health Programs. Summer research allows veterinary and
undergraduate students alike to participate in research that is relevant to
local and global issues, such as food safety. In addition, programs like the
College of Public Health’s Master’s in Veterinary Public Health program foster
many collaborative research projects that address public health concerns
relating to food production and processing.

One of Ohio State’s three research
“areas of discovery,” food safety and security are also a key component of the
One Health movement, which further emphasizes the importance of veterinary
medicine in solving farm and public health concerns.

Student research updates can be found
on the veterinary student research blog.

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