Parasites beware; National Center for Veterinary Parasitology at Oklahoma State University has its eyes on you
STILLWATER, Okla., July 25, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The world’s battle against parasites has a young, aggressive ally.
Launched in 2009, the National Center for Veterinary Parasitology (NCVP) at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences is helping carry the fight against parasites and vectors, such as mosquitoes, ticks, and the organisms they transmit. These foes attack humans, animals and our food supply.
The National Center for Veterinary Parasitology is the only one of its kind and began with the financial backing of the Kirkpatrick Foundation, Novartis Animal Health, Bayer Animal Health and Merial.
“The concept was novel. Create a clearinghouse for all things related to veterinary parasitology, support clinical parasitology research, and develop the next generation of veterinary parasitologists,” said Susan Little, DVM, PhD, DACVM (Parasit.), OSU Regents Professor, Krull-Ewing Chair in Veterinary Parasitology and co-director of the NCVP.
This year, Merck, Zoetis, and Elanco joined the other continuing sponsors to provide sustaining support and establish industry resident positions. The NCVP residents are nationally recognized stars in their field.
“Before the NCVP, there was no pipeline for future talent specific to veterinary parasitology,” Little said. “The need for veterinary parasitologists has grown but with a limited supply. Both academia and the pharmaceutical industry need well-trained clinical researchers to effectively combat parasitic and vector-borne diseases.”
Heartworm is one National Center for Veterinary Parasitology success story.
Little said heartworm diagnosis has been based on antigen testing to detect proteins of the parasite in the blood of dogs and cats, and antigen tests are very sensitive and specific.
“Because of research at the NCVP, we now know that many infected dogs, and perhaps most infected cats, may not test positive even though they have worms,” Little said. “Fortunately, this research also identified a simple, in-clinic modification to the test to address the problem. This is just one example of how NCVP parasitologists can help veterinarians practice better medicine.”
The NCVP at Oklahoma State University is sharing its knowledge through its website (http://www.ncvetp.org), where teachers from all over the world can access a database with hundreds of parasite images at no cost. In addition, other teaching resources include a ‘case of the month’ and a Jeopardy-style parasitology review game.
“Giving educators access to accurate and compelling parasitology information and research helps strengthen knowledge about parasitology and increases the interest in the discipline world-wide,” said Little.
The diagnostic arm of the NCVP is expanding its impact according to Eileen Johnson, DVM, MS, PhD, who is an associate clinical professor at Oklahoma State University and the diagnostic veterinary parasitologist for the center.
“The diagnostic lab processes hundreds of samples each month for veterinarians in practice and for other reference labs,” said Johnson. “Most of the samples are from small animals, many from shelter animals. Some of the most common findings include hookworms, which can cause severe anemia in young animals, as well as coccidia, Giardia, roundworms, and whipworms, which can cause diarrhea.”
Johnson said many of these parasites are zoonotic and can cause disease in people, so identifying and treating the infections are particularly important. The center also provides egg per gram counts for horses and cattle, allowing veterinarians to tailor integrated parasite management programs and monitor treatment effectiveness.
In addition to processing diagnostic samples, the clinical parasitology lab collects materials to be used for teaching courses at Oklahoma State University and at other veterinary colleges. Johnson teaches residents and graduate students a special problems course in diagnostic parasitology best practices.
“The NCVP provides information to veterinarians to help them recognize parasites in the animals they treat,” said Little. “An accurate, early diagnosis can cut down on the cost of treatment for the owner and hopefully bring the pet back to a healthy state faster.”
The latest addition to the NCVP is a small grants program that provides funding for one-year projects to address specific problems in clinical or basic veterinary parasitology.
“Student involvement in the project is required, which gives us one more opportunity to get younger scientists excited about parasitology research,” Little said. “All of this is made possible through our sponsoring partners and we are forever grateful for their continued support.”
Plans for the coming year at the National Center for Veterinary Parasitology include additional ways to provide helpful information to parasitologists, veterinarians and the public. Look for videos on best practices in parasite control, new images of veterinary parasites, interesting cases involving veterinary parasitology, and more.
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SOURCE Oklahoma State University