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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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Congratulations Dr. Rasmussen!

by Melanie McLean, DVM, Center for Veterinary Medicine, FDA

CVM’s Office of Research (OR) selected Dr. Mark Rasmussen as the new director of the Division of Animal and Food Microbiology (DAFM). Researchers in DAFM study micro-organisms that may harm people and animals. They also look at how antimicrobial drugs used in animals affect drug resistance in bacteria that cause animal disease and foodborne illness. As a research microbiologist, Dr. Rasmussen’s scientific leadership will guide the division’s expanding microbiology programs.

Dr. Rasmussen came to OR with a strong background in agriculture, animal science, and animal health. He has farmed full-time, held research positions in private companies, and worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and in academia. Since joining OR in March 2009, Dr. Rasmussen has studied the microbiology of animal feed, including work on distillers grains. Distillers grains are a byproduct of whiskey and ethanol fuel production, and sometimes, are ingredients in animal feed.

Most recently, Dr. Rasmussen looked at using plant secondary compounds to prevent bacteria in an animal’s gastrointestinal tract from becoming resistant to antimicrobial drugs. Secondary compounds are complex chemicals made by plants. These compounds are “secondary” because they are not essential to a plant’s basic metabolism. Rather, secondary compounds can be pesticides, grazing deterrents, or chemical signals that act as the plant’s natural defense against diseases, insects, or herbivores – the plant world’s version of chemical warfare. These compounds also attract pollinating insects and helpful micro-organisms.

Dr. Rasmussen researched using plant secondary compounds to inhibit, or stop, bacterial efflux pumps from working. Bacterial efflux pumps move toxic substances and antimicrobial drugs out of cells, protecting bacteria from these substances and helping bacteria become resistant to certain drugs. By stopping efflux pumps, plant secondary compounds may reduce drug resistance and increase the effectiveness of antimicrobial drugs in animals.

Microbiology research like Dr. Rasmussen’s and others in DAFM is critical to CVM’s mission to protect human and animal health. Congratulations Dr. Rasmussen on your new position!