In the United States food destined for pet consumption is normally safe for both the pets and the people who handle the food. The need for the cheap production of these food commodities and the fact that we live in a more global society has changed the sources of the components of pet food. As a result, there have been several occurrences of zoonotic infectious disease transmission and toxicities. Salmonella present in dog treats and pet food has sickened people that handle them or were in contact with their pets while shedding such bacteria. These outbreaks were due to contamination during processing, probably preventable, but definitely not malicious. In some other instances, such as in the case of melamine toxicosis, the introduction was deliberate in an effort to profit through the fraudulent substitution of an adulterant. The University of Georgia, through its "One Health" initiative, is committed to promoting, training, and conducting research in all areas of animal, human and environmental health. The College of Veterinary Medicine and the State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory have a duty to the state and to its constituents to not only perform diagnosis but also to monitor trends and report unusual disease presentations or patterns. Our laboratory takes this responsibility very seriously, and over the years our faculty members have published articles with such findings. Furthermore, we were the first laboratory to diagnose melamine toxicosis in dogs due to contaminated components in canned pet food. We were not only able to describe the outbreak in the US, but also by working with our network of collaborators, link it to an outbreak in Korea. Furthermore, the PI has worked extensively in the study of the chicken gut micro-biome, including the distribution of antimicrobial resistance, and the epidemiology of Salmonella in wildlife and the environment. NIH currently funds this work. Our laboratory has expertise in the areas of pathology, bacteriology, parasitology, virology, serology, and molecular biology, including high throughput platform testing. Furthermore, our faculty and staff are highly qualified and are devoted to animal and public health. Our commitment is evident in our participation in many programs at the state and national levels. We are one of the core laboratories of the National Animal Health laboratory Network (NAHLN) and participate in all NAHLN surveillance testing, including BSE (mad cow disease). In addition, we are currently participating in another cooperative agreement with the FDA assessing the presence of Salmonella enterica sbsp. enterica in turkey-based pet treats as well as engaging in an epidemiological study looking at the prevalence of Salmonella in dog and cat feces (1U8FD004318-01) and the potential risk factors for Salmonella carriage. Therefore, we are uniquely positioned to assist the FDA in meeting the important goals of the project described in this RFA.
Significance Pets are these days members of the modern family. As such they share intimate contact with the people in the household. In addition, their feeding our pets has become a commercial enterprise with a proliferation of treats and diet fads such as raw diets. There is more and more competition in this market with the need to obtain basic ingredients for food from cheaper and cheaper sources. Furthermore, this are of the food market not-for human consumption is not very regulated. Therefore, infectious diseases, toxixosis bot due to deliberate or accidental tampering are becoming more common. Protecting the health of our pets and their human families is an important health issue. We are in a world where health has to be defined;as One Health where people animals and the environment are in it together. For example, Salmonella, pathogen that the PI of this grant has bee researching over the past years, is a zoonotic agent that causes over a million illnesses in the U.S. alone. Although food sources are the main form of infection to humans, there is growing evidence that pets and their food are sources of Salmonella. Nevertheless, very little is known on the true prevalence of Salmonella in pets in the U.S. today. Understanding the epidemiology of Salmonella at the human-pet interface is crucial in understanding and ultimately reducing disease in people caused by Salmonella. The same can be said for other zoonotic agents and toxins.