Michael J. Yabsley

Portrait of Michael Yabsley in labCreative Research Medal in Natural Sciences and Engineering 2018

Michael Yabsley, professor in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and College of Veterinary Medicine, discovered an unexpected pathway of infection for dracunculiasis, also known as Guinea worm disease (GWD), which has caused widespread suffering in West Africa. GWD was already known to spread through unfiltered drinking water contaminated by the parasitic worm Dracunculus medinensis, causing debilitating pain, fever, nausea and occasionally death. After a successful international GWD eradication campaign, human cases fell from 3.5 million in 1986 to only 25 cases in 2016. In 2013, however, GWD infections were found in a new host—dogs—with further potential for transmission to humans. He hypothesized that dogs acquired GWD infections by ingesting aquatic hosts, possibly fish or frogs, which carried the parasite in their tissues. This discovery of possible foodborne transmission, rather than waterborne transmission, allowed policymakers to implement targeted disease prevention strategies for human and canine populations.

Previous award

  • Graduate Student Excellence-in-Research Award 2005