Under the Microscope - Dr. Khaitsa

Jessica Ebert
by Jessica Ebert
Dr. Margaret Khaitsa

Associate Professor, Margaret Khaitsa, first learned of North Dakota in her high school geography class as part of a unit on the Great Prairies of North America. Her rural agricultural community in Uganda, East Africa, had many things in common with the plains, and the Fargo-Moorhead community in particular, including rivers that flow to the north (the Red and the Nile).

After graduating from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda with a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Khaitsa completed a Master’s degree in Tropical Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. From there, she returned to Makerere as a lecturer in Epidemiology & Veterinary Preventive Medicine. She came to the U.S. in 1994 to pursue a Ph.D. in Veterinary Preventive Medicine at The Ohio State University. After receiving her Ph.D., Dr. Khaitsa accepted a postdoctoral research opportunity at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln before joining our department in 2003.

Dr. Khaitsa’s current research involves investigating infectious diseases that affect both animals and humans. The goal of her lab is to study disease patterns to determine the factors that explain those patterns.

“Once we know these factors, then we can predict which people or animals are likely to develop these diseases in the future and prevent their occurrences,” she explains.

The Khaitsa lab has studied patterns of disease in horses that died of West Nile virus in 2002 and animals that died of anthrax in 2005. In addition, she works with colleagues in the Great Plains Institute of Food Safety to investigate the occurrence of foodborne pathogens, including E. coli O157:H:7 and Salmonella sp., both at pre-harvest (e.g. in feedlot production systems) and at post-harvest (e.g. in ready-to-eat meats from retail stores).

Dr. Khaitsa spearheaded the development of a summer course called, International Animal Production, Disease Surveillance and Public Health, a joint partnership between NDSU and Makerere’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Department of Veterinary Public Health and Preventive Medicine

“Ever since I left Uganda, I had a vision to start a collaboration with my old school to provide an opportunity for a partnership that would be mutually beneficial to students and faculty at both institutions,” she explains.

Since the summer of 2007, students from NDSU, Makerere, and seven other universities, including The Ohio State University, the University of Minnesota, Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University, University of Tennessee, and Dickinson State University, have participated in the course. The summer course provides shared opportunities through collaborative education, research, and/or fieldwork. The course provides for career development opportunities and fosters an international perspective on animal production systems, bio-surveillance and biosecurity, the control of trans-boundary diseases of animal and public health importance, and food safety issues in developing countries.

Nine students participated in the summer 2011 course, including four from NDSU, four from Makerere, and one from the University of California—Davis. Eight of these students are also the first cohort of graduate students who will enroll in the NDSU/Makerere joint M.S. program in International Infectious Disease Management and Biosecurity. This program is funded by the USDA Higher Education Challenge grant and USAID/HED (Higher Education for Development).

Check out this article in 'It's Happening at State" about a major grant awarded to NDSU, which Dr. Khaitsa is spearheading.

For more information on Dr. Khaitsa’s activities and research, please click here

For more information about the summer course in Uganda, please click here