Department News

2011-06-13

Professor Jamie Lloyd-Smith awarded a Hellman Fellowship to look for 'Typhoid Mary' sea lions

Professor Jamie Lloyd-Smith has been selected as a UCLA Hellman Fellow in recognition of his innovative research on the ecology of infectious diseases. The fellowship will support his study of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease, and its impact on California sea lions. Leptospirosis causes annual outbreaks in the coastal population of California sea lions, resulting in many sea lion deaths and creating risks of disease exposure for other species, including humans. Dr. Lloyd-Smith is working with veterinarians, zoologists and microbiologists to study this disease process, and their multi-disciplinary approach is revealing new insights into how leptospirosis works. This fellowship will support research to investigate a suspected "disease carrier" state in the sea lions, where animals could be carrying the bacteria asymptomatically and transmitting it to others over an extended period -- just like Typhoid Mary a century ago. The current thinking on leptospirosis states that a host species that suffers outbreaks can't also have asymptomatic carriers, so the sea lions may have something to teach us about this important disease of humans.

The UCLA Hellman Fellows program was established through the generosity of the Hellman Family Foundation to help promising assistant professors with their research and creative endeavors.