Parasites (helminths, protozoa, arthropods) are significant in veterinary medicine: some are a nuisance that negatively impact well-being and performance while others cause severe clinical disease. Veterinarians spend a substantial amount of time and resources addressing parasites.
Our lab is interested in understanding aspects of parasite transmission and parasite biology that will aid veterinarians in combating parasitic disease. The goals of our research projects are to clearly identify parasites posing a threat to animal health and to improve methods for diagnosis and treatment of these organisms.
We conduct projects involving a variety of different parasitic diseases and welcome collaboration with investigators from academia, government, and industry. A few of our current projects are described below:
T. foetus is a sexually-transmitted parasite of cattle that causes early embryonic death. Currently, there is no treatment for this parasite and diagnosis can only be achieved in a diagnostic laboratory. We are capable of growing the parasite under laboratory conditions, leading us to develop new diagnostic tests and identify potential treatments for future use.
Ascaris is a large roundworm parasite that infects humans and pigs. The parasite is common in both intensive (confined, indoor) swine herds and extensive (outdoor, pastured, organic) swine herds. Our lab studies the transmission and maintenance of this nematode in pigs. Recently, we used genetic sequencing to reveal transmission of the parasite among humans and pigs in the United States.
Platyhelminth parasites infecting fish
A variety of different platyhelminths (flatworms: tapeworms and flukes) are parasites of fish. We are interested in 1) parasites that impact fish health and 2) parasites that exploit fish as intermediate hosts and are ultimately ingested by a vertebrate. We developed a quantitative method for detecting killing of trematode parasites by praziquantel, a drug that is often used to treat infected mammals. Our lab is also investigating the use of praziquantel for applications in aquaculture/aquatic medicine.
Nematode drug resistance
Several nematodes have developed resistance to anthelmintics, the drugs we depend on for treatment of these parasites. Our lab is interested in developing strategies to overcome resistance mechanisms in order to restore efficacy of anthelmintics. We are currently are investigating parasite P-glycoproteins, which are members of the ATP-binding cassette transporter family and are capable of pumping anthelmintics out of parasite cells.