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Investigating Why a Tick-Borne Parasite Is Resistant to Treatment

Theileria equi is a tick-transmitted parasite of horses that attacks and destroys their red blood cells. The mortality rate can be as high as 20 percent among susceptible animals. Once recovered, horses remain chronic carriers yet do not show clinical signs, which include fever, lethargy, anorexia, anemia, dehydration and, in severe cases, death. Aside from the obvious threat to equine health, the reemergence and persistence of T. equi in the U.S. horse population will result in significant economic losses to the U.S. equine industry because of decreased performance, quarantine and treatment costs. In infected horses, treatment with anti-parasitic drugs may offer a desirable alternative to quarantine and euthanasia, but some strains of T. equi seem to be resistant to treatment. The fellow will compare two drugs used to treat T. equi and measure a protein that is known to be resistant to each of the drugs. Knowing the factors that lead to drug resistance could help researchers develop new treatments to fight this potentially devastating disease.

Siddra Arielle Hines, Washington State University, Pfizer Animal Health–Morris Animal Foundation Fellowship