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Making the world safe and secure from emerging infectious and neglected tropical diseases by applying One Health – the synergy of animal, human, and environmental sciences – to global health and security.

Italo Zecca

Determining the prevalence of Chagas Disease in the Rio Grande Valley region of the Texas-Mexico border

Italo Zecca, a Texas A&M University PhD candidate in Biomedical Sciences, attended the 2016 American Public Health Association Annual Meeting & Expo in Orlando, Florida, October 29–November 2, 2016. He presented a poster that detailed his research regarding the identification of existing cases of Chagas disease in dogs and humans of impoverished communities along the Texas-Mexico border. Italo was mentored by Dr. Sarah Hamer, Assistant Professor in the department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences, College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

“Attending the internationally renowned and recognized American Public Health Association (APHA) conference in Denver, Colorado was one of the top accomplishments of my academic career,” Italo said of his experience. “I had the opportunity to attend seminars given by public health experts and observe the important impact the One Health concept has on society. In addition to seminars, I was able to meet many researchers during poster presentations and engage in intellectual conversations which will benefit my future endeavors. At the APHA conference informational booths, I was able to network with individuals and potential collaborators from entities including the Pan American Health Organization, World Health Organization, and the Department of Homeland Security,” he continued. “By forming connections with members from prestigious entities engaged by my research, I plan to expand the One Health capacity of my current and future research at Texas A&M.”

“The One Health Travel Award granted me the opportunity to present my research to a broader audience and expand my professional network,” Italo concluded. “Through this award, I was able to gain knowledge from public health experts whom are creating innovative research to further the well-being of society through One Health.”

“Italo is leading our team’s mission to mitigate Chagas disease along the US-Mexico border,” Dr. Hamer said. “By simultaneously examining the burden of exposure to Trypanosoma cruzi in both humans and their pet dogs, Italo will evaluate the degree to which pet dog infection is predictive of human infection as a first step in disease prevention. We suspect that dogs will indeed serve as sentinels for human disease risk given their shared exposure to environments with infected vectors. Italo’s deep understanding and respect for the culture and communities in the Rio Grande Valley has been our key to success, and he has designed and disseminated lots of culturally competent outreach materials resulting in an empowered public.”


Photo credit: Italo Zecca