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Biostatistics faculty Amy Willis awarded grant to study gut microbiome of people with high exposure to farm animals

An estimated 60% of known infectious diseases and up to 75% of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic in origin, meaning the disease is transmitted from animals to humans. Despite this, relatively little is known about alterations to the human microbiome for people who have close contact with farm animals.

Amy Willis
Amy Willis

An upcoming study by University of Washington Assistant Professor of Biostatistics Amy Willis aims to change this thanks to a recent $427,000 grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Willis will investigate which bacteria colonize the human gut after zoonotic exposure, which bacteria are outcompeted by colonizers, and which bacteria adapt. The study will also develop new statistical methods to more accurately compare bacterial genomes.

"In addition to being vulnerable themselves, livestock workers are potential intermediaries for community transmission of pathogens and antibiotic resistant bacteria. This is a unique opportunity to study newly exposed livestock workers, and to develop new statistical methods essential to the analysis of next-generation sequencing data," says Willis.