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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Student Research Yields Useful Results

September 25th, 2015
Kathryn Gaub (Class of 2017) discusses her summer research project with Danielle Mechur (Class of 2017).

Kathryn Gaub (Class of 2017) discusses her summer research on Oregon canids with Danielle Mechur (Class of 2017).

Veterinary students rarely spend their entire summer lying on a beach. Many first- and second-year students work in a practice or volunteer in animal welfare projects. Third- and fourth-year students are involved in preceptorships and OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital rounds. This summer sixteen students worked on research with faculty mentors from the Department of Biomedical Science.

Some students in the Summer Research Program use information obtained from the Veterinary Teaching Hospital to study clinical issues like infection. Hannah Shoen (Class of 2017) worked in the lab of Dr. Luiz Bermudez investigating the types of Staphylococcus occurring in hospital cases, and their antibiotic resistance. She also studied the efficacy of the cleaning agent VEDCO D-256. Shoen found oxacillin resistance in S. pseudintermedius. She also found that bacteria survived the current hospital cleaning protocol of wiping surfaces with VEDCO D-256, and she discovered that the manufacturer recommends leaving the cleaning agent on the surface for a full ten minutes before wiping.

Emily Swan, Class of 2017, chose to work with Dr. Kathy O’Reilly because she wanted to tackle a project that would be clinically significant. She investigated the diagnosis of urinary tract infections in the OSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Currently the VDL uses semi-quantitative grades of 1-4 to designated degree of bacteria present in urine cultures. For comparison, Swan performed quantitative cultures on urine samples, measuring colony-forming units per milliliter. She discovered that there is a gray area around Grade 2 ratings where minimal-growth cultures are sometimes being treated as significant. She concluded that the use of the more expensive, time-consuming process of measuring colony-forming units per milliliter could reduce over-treating of urinary tract infections.

Some of the students in the program this summer worked on projects that bring additional data to ongoing research. Jackie Houser (Class of 2018) examined the relationship between gut microbiota and glucose metabolism in wild mice. She worked in the lab or Dr. Natalia Shulzhenko, whose research focuses on the connection between gut microbiota and diseases like diabetes. Houser compared the gene sequencing profiles of the mouse’s gut microbiota to their glucose metabolism metrics. This information will contribute to the lab’s goal of identifying the specific gut microbes that influence host metabolism.

This is just a small sample of the meaningful work being done by veterinary students in the summer research program. All the students presented their work via posters and presentations at Research Day on September 10th. Jennifer Engelhart received the top score for her presentation on Mycobacteriosis in Lined Sea Horses.

With all the other demands of veterinary college, why should students consider summer research? “This has been a very positive experience for me,” says Emily Swan. “I could see myself pursuing a research-related career in the future. However, even if I don’t end up going in that direction, I think having this background will be very helpful in any veterinary field; being comfortable reading scientific papers and evaluating their results is useful skill for any veterinarian. The knowledge I’ve gained in the bacteriology laboratory will help me understand the diagnostic tests we use and how to interpret their results.”


Scientists At OSU Want To Find Out What Makes Benny Tick

September 25th, 2015

BennyFilbert — a beaver in residence at the Oregon Zoo — gave a little extra blood at his yearly physical exam. That blood will help scientists at Oregon State University sequence the genome of the North American beaver.

“Beavers are important to the ecology of the region, and understanding their genome is an important part of understanding their behaviors and role in the ecosystem,” says Dr. Stephen Ramsey, assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “There is a lot of interest in exploring the genetics of wild beaver populations throughout the Northwest, but we lack the reference genome that would really facilitate those kinds of studies.”

To learn more, watch Benny, the OSU mascot, interview some of the scientists involved in the Beaver Genome Project (including Dean Tornquist).

Now that Filbert has done his part, it’s time for the humans to help! From September 16 to October 30, OSU is crowd-funding the money needed to analyze Filbert’s DNA. In just four days, friends of the Beaver Nation have donated nearly $3,000 of the $30,000 needed! If you want to help Benny be the first college mascot with a mapped genome, donate online.

Celebration of New Endowed Professor

September 25th, 2015

dachshund-artStudents, faculty, staff, and alumni of the College of Veterinary Medicine are invited to help celebrate Dr. Susanne Stieger-Vanegas’ award of the Camden Endowed Professorship in Diagnostic Imaging. Join Dean Tornquist in the Magruder lobby on Friday, October 23rd, 2015 at 3 pm for a dessert bar and ‘mocktails’ and help thank Rebecca Camden (and her dachshund Maude) for their continued, invaluable support of the college.

The Camden Endowed Professorship in Diagnostic Imaging is the second endowed position created at CVM. The first was the Glen Pfefferkorn and Morris Wendorf Endowed Professorship of Camelid Medicine – the first of it’s kind in the nation – awarded to Professor Chris Cebra.

Sporadic, Unaccountable Bruising Diagnosed As Auto-Immune Disorder

July 17th, 2015
Fourth-year students exam Max for signs of bruising.

Fourth-year students examine Max for signs of bruising.

Max is a twelve-pound bundle of white fluff. He shares a house with his owner Kathy Sisson, her daughter and grandson, two human friends, two rabbits, one mouse, one guinea pig, two dogs, and three cats. Needless to say, he gets along with all kinds of people and animals. “He is a happy-go-lucky little guy,” says Sisson.

Sisson became disabled three years ago and relies on her family to help her get around. “Max is my constant companion and best friend,” she says.

Because she is on a tight budget, Sisson was very worried when Max began to develop unaccountable, random bruising. She took him to a free clinic, organized by veterinary students in the Shelter Medicine Club, where the volunteer veterinarian suspected Max had a blood clotting issue and referred her to OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH).

Sisson was happy that the experts at OSU were close to home, but she was concerned about the cost. The clinic veterinarian told her about the Olive Britt Hope Fund.

Endowed by OSU alumna Olive K. Britt, the Hope Fund was created to provide assistance to pets of low-income owners who need life-saving treatment. The demand on the fund is greater than the income provided by the endowment, so many generous friends of the college donate to it every year. In addition, veterinary students often hold events like Ride the Heart of the Valley to raise money for the fund.

Sisson called the VTH and verified that a portion of her costs could be covered by the Hope Fund. She and her grandson brought Max in to see resident Dr. Rhonda Holt, who observed bruising on his ventral abdomen and thorax. Dr. Holt ordered complete blood tests and discovered a severe thrombocytopenia (decreased platelet number) of 25,000 g/ul, but a normal coagulation profile. Holt consulted with Dr. Craig Ruaux and they concluded that Max had immune-mediated thrombocytopenia, a serious auto-immune condition in which a dog’s body attacks its own blood platelets.

Dr. Holt prescribed two immunosuppresants, prednisone and azathioprine, as well a gastroprotectant omeprazole. On his two-week check up, Max showed marked improvement with normal platelet levels.

Commonly this condition responds well to treatment, and many dogs can eventually be weaned off medication. “The medications are necessary to stop his platelets from being destroyed by his body,” says Holt. “Keeping that in mind, we must be very cautious as we taper the dosage of his immune suppressive medications, and continue to monitor his platelet count closely.”

Max is doing well and Sisson is grateful to OSU for saving her best friend. “I don’t know what I would do without him,” she says.


Llamas Are The Life Of The Party At Wild View Acre

July 17th, 2015

Zeke helps celebrate the birth of a new cria.

If you chat with a random selection of people who work at the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, you will find that most of them like animals – not a big surprise. Even the staff who don’t work with animals – accountants, clerical support, lab technicians, etc. – often own one or two pets.

Then there are the folks like Jill Pfaff. A microbiologist in the bacteriology section of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Jill owns lots of animals, including 6 llamas, and is obviously very devoted to her furry family. Technically, the llamas are hairy, not furry, but they are a big part of her life.

Jill grew up on Wild Bunch Ranch in southern Oregon where her family raised cattle, horses and pigs, and were very active in 4-H. She now volunteers, along with her partner Matt Gholden, as a 4-H leader with the Benton County Lucky Longneck Llama club. This keeps her and the llamas very busy participating in parades, competitions, and other events, including OSU Pet Day.

One of Jill’s favorite llamas, Zeke, recently marched in the Corvallis Christmas Parade. He also joined ten 4-H kids and their leaders at Pet Day, where they are a very popular attraction, and patiently put up with a whole day of being petted by city folks.

Zeke is a wily and curious llama, so Jill has another fun activity to keep him busy: “My goal for Zeke was to produce an animal with good conformation and personality that I could socialize from the beginning of his life, and train him to compete in llama carting obstacle-course competitions,” she says. “Believe it or not, there are two national llama and alpaca organizations (ILR and ALSA) that have competitions across the country.”

Lil' Zeke

Lil’ Zeke

As a long-time employee of the college, Jill supports its mission in many ways. She has volunteered at the International Camelid Medicine Conference, held every other year in Corvallis. She also made an unusual but important contribution to student training. “We had to euthanize one of the llamas who had an unfixable tooth abscess that had deformed her jaw. We donated Marilyn to the vet school where they use her jaw in anatomy lab,” says Pfaff.

Jill recently welcomed a new llama to the family at Wild View Acre. His name is Wild View’s Lil’ Zeke, and the whole gang held a birthday party in his honor.

New Test Developed for Carcinogenic PAH

July 9th, 2015


Vet Med Associate Professor Christiane Lohr, and a team of researchers from the OSU Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, have developed a faster, more accurate method to assess cancer risk from exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

PAHs are molecules found in fossil fuels and are produced when insufficient oxygen or other factors result in incomplete combustion of organic matter (e.g. engines and incinerators). PAHs can also be found at high levels in meat cooked at high temperatures over open flame. PAHs have been identified as carcinogenic and are considered a concern for the potency of potential adverse health impacts.

The results of the PAH study were recently published in the Journal of Toxicological Sciences and was also highlighted in the current issue of NIEHS Environmental Factor.

People are primarily exposed to PAHs in the form of mixtures, and this proof-of-concept study demonstrated a first step toward moving away from risk assessments based on individual components of PAH mixtures, to using methods that examine the whole mixture.

To determine the carcinogenic risk of PAH mixtures, the researchers measured the chemical bioactivity profile in skin cells of mice just after short-term PAH exposure. The bioactivity profile, which provides a unique fingerprint of genes and pathways activated by chemicals after exposure, can be used for predicting long-term consequences such as cancer. They tested PAH mixtures found in coal tar, diesel exhaust, and cigarette smoke. After only 12 hours, the researchers could predict the ability of certain PAH mixtures to cause cancer. Other methods take months for tumors to develop.

Although the method needs further testing, the findings demonstrate that long-term cancer outcome for PAH mixtures can be predicted by evaluating bioactivity after short-term exposure. Since the bioactivity profile provides gene signatures that are tied to chemical mechanisms of action, this information could also provide insight into alternate mechanisms of PAH carcinogenesis and related mechanisms for complex mixtures.