The Scoop From the Schools ("What's the Chatter at Your Alma Mater?") is a blog that brings news and information from vet schools and equine research facilities to those involved in the equine veterinary industry. This month we feature news from Colorado State University, Cornell University and North Carolina State University.
Exploring Ivermectin for Decreasing West Nile Virus Transmission
Bird feed laced with ivermectin could help reduce the transmission of West Nile virus (WNV), said Brian Foy, PhD, principle investigator of the Foy Laboratory at Colorado State University and a member of the Center for Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases.
Horses and humans are both at risk of infection with WNV, which is transmitted through mosquito bites. Birds are the natural hosts for the virus; therefore, killing the mosquitoes as they “bite” the birds can prevent transmission of the virus from birds to nearby susceptible animals. While a vaccine is available for horses, not all horses are vaccinated. No vaccine for humans is available. Instead, insect repellents, protective clothing, barn fans and avoiding peak mosquito time (dusk and dawn) are advocated to fight the bite. Remember, horses are dead-end hosts; mosquitoes can't bite an infected horse and get enough virus to spread the disease to humans or other animals. But if your horse gets West Nile virus, then you know the mosquitoes carrying the disease are in your area!
As we know, many equine activities begin early in the day before the heat and humidity of the day set in. Therefore, having alternative strategies for helping minimize the chances of WNV infection would be valuable.
Based on Foy’s research—conducted in collaboration with researchers at UC Davis— adding very small doses of ivermectin to bird feed (such as feeds used in backyard bird feeders that wild birds visit) could help reduce local transmission of WNV by killing the mosquitoes that bite the birds before they can transmit WNV to humans or horses. A low dose of ivermectin is harmless for birds, but it gets in their blood and can be lethal for mosquitoes that feed on them.
Foy and colleagues estimated that this approach could actually reduce neighborhood transmission by about 60% in optimal conditions, according to Colorado State University’s press release. This is impressive considering that thousands of human cases of WNV are reported each year in the U.S. in humans. Added to that are the number of WNV cases in horses.
There is no cure for WNV in either species, and whether an infected individual will recover or continue to suffer residual neurologic deficits remains highly variable.
“Our strategy, if effective upon further testing, will never fully eliminate transmission risk in the treated area, it would only minimize it," Foy said. "Because humans still do not have an approved anti-WNV vaccine, we are left with trying to develop strategies to minimize transmission risk to them.”
For equine practitioners concerned about using ivermectin off label due to the growing resistance of internal parasites to all classes of chemical dewormers, Foy does not feel this is a concern.
“I do not presently think that ivermectin-treated bird feed would affect the problem of worm resistance in horses," said Foy. "Those parasites don’t really interface with birds or mosquitoes, so they would unlikely be exposed any more to ivermectin-treated birds than they already are to ivermectin-treated horses.”
Martin Nielsen, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, Schlaikjer Professor of Equine Infectious Diseases at the Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky (UK), an eminent researcher in equine parasitology, agreed with Foy.
“There shouldn’t be any connection between medicating birds and anthelmintic resistance in nematodes of horses and livestoc," stated Nielsen. "Birds aren’t part of those life cycles, so it is hard to argue that this idea should pose a significant risk.”
Fubini Named President of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons
Dr. Susan Fubini, professor of large animal surgery and senior associate dean for academic affairs at Cornell University, was recently elected the newest president of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS).
“As president, I look forward to helping continue the traditions as well as the new programs the ACVS has in place,” Fubini told Melanie Greaver Cordova in the University’s official press release. “These include excellence in the residency training program and continuing education offerings, as well as the strategic planning process in spring 2022. The college has a new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiative and ongoing collaborations with individuals looking at equity and gender issues in specialized veterinary medicine and the profession as a whole.”
Fubini graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine and subsequently completed her internship and residency at Cornell University, becoming a member of the ACVS in 1987. Fubini’s distinguished career as a large animal soft-tissue surgeon resulted in the publication of dozens of scientific articles as well as the textbook, “Farm Animal Surgery” co-authored by Dr. Norm Ducharme.
North Carolina State Vet Student Snags Coyote Ranch and Bill Rood Scholarships
Alex Grobman, a member of the North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine class of 2022, was recently awarded the $75,000 Coyote Rock Ranch Scholarship in support of students dedicated to equine medicine. She also was named the inaugural recipient of the AAEP’s $5,000 Dr. Bill Rood Leadership scholarship.
The Coyote Rock Ranch Scholarship, sponsored by the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Foundation for the Horse is one of the most prestigious in the country for future equine veterinarians. It recognizes academic excellence, leadership skills and long-term goals within the equine field. The scholarship is named after a ranch in Oregon owned by Penelope Knight, a breeder and horse health advocate who created the scholarship
Grobman is one of four students to receive this scholarship in 2021 and the fourth student from NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine to receive this award since its inception in 2015.
No stranger to scholarship success, Grobman has also received the Annable Scholarship three times, the Charlotte Bacon Veterinary Education Scholarship and the Zoetis Veterinary Student Scholars Award.
“I think that my leadership and research opportunities set my application apart from the others," said Brobman. "I was on the officer board of the NCSU Student Chapter of the AAEP each year of vet school, and I was the manager of the student technicians in our large animal hospital. I also worked closely with Dr. Lauren Schnabel for years in her research lab. I am so grateful to have been able to study under incredible mentors and learn new clinical and leadership skills from them.”
In the future, Grobman plans to help other students dedicated to equine practice.
“I would feel lucky to be able to give back to the equine community in that way," she said. "Scholarships are monumental to vet students, especially those interested in equine practice. It helps students to feel supported and as though they have people, many of whom they don't even know, wanting them to succeed.”
She added that, “Words truly cannot describe how elated I am to have been awarded these incredible scholarships! My parents are so proud of me, and I really did push myself to be the absolute best for them.”