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Identifying Genes to Create a Vaccine Against a Deadly Feline Parasite

Cytauxzoonosis is a life-threatening disease of domestic cats that is similar to malaria in humans. Without treatment, 97 percent of cats with cytauxzoonosis die, and even with the best available treatments, morbidity is extreme and mortality rates approach 40 percent. regardless of the outcome, treatment can cost thousands of dollars. the geographic distribution of the parasite has spread rapidly since its discovery in the 1970s, and cytauxzoonosis has been diagnosed in 35 of the states in the continental United States. researchers recently deciphered the Cytauxzoon felis genome sequence and identified about 4,300 protein-coding genes, each of which represents a possible protective antigen. They will now identify and prioritize which of these genes are the best vaccine candidates. This study is a critical first step in the development of a vaccine against this disease. ultimately, researchers believe a successful C. felis vaccine will save the lives of thousands of cats and thereby save their owners from emotional and financial hardship. The project will also help train at least two DVM/PhD graduate students who are preparing for careers in animal health.

Dr. Adam Birkenheuer, North Carolina State University