ARS announces veterinary research award winners

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In February, the Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service honored three medical veterinary officers for their efforts in various areas of veterinary research.

Dr. Donald P. Knowles, Pullman, Wash., was named Distinguished Senior Research Scientist of the Year for his leadership in developing new methods to diagnose animal diseases. He heads the Pullman, Wash., ARS Animal Disease Research Unit.

At the laboratory, Dr. Knowles led scientists in studies resulting in an accurate new test to detect Anaplasma marginale, the parasite that causes anaplasmosis, a tickborne disease responsible for 50,000 to 100,000 cattle deaths per year.

The test checks for natural antibodies that bind to parasite proteins in blood samples. In collaboration with the ARS, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is using the test to survey cattle in tick-infested areas of the United States.

Other diagnostic tests developed under Dr. Knowles' leadership detect scrapie in sheep, piroplasmosis in horses, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Dr. David L. Suarez, Athens, Ga., was named the Herbert L. Rothbart Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist for research explaining how chickens and turkeys contract avian influenza, as well as for the development of several new types of vaccines for the virus.

"Dr. Suarez's work has redefined our understanding of how influenza viruses evolve in poultry, which should allow us to better predict when a mildly pathogenic influenza will shift to the highly pathogenic form of avian influenza," said Edward B. Knipling, ARS acting administrator.

Dr. Suarez was one of several ARS scientists who, at the request of the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conducted studies to determine which strains of H5N1 isolated from people in Hong Kong in 1997 could—via injection in the laboratory—be transmitted to poultry. This research has continued with the 1999 H5N1 viruses from Hong Kong to determine the threat these viruses have for avian and human health.

The ARS also named Dr. Mitchell V. Palmer of the National Animal Disease Center's Bacterial Diseases Of Livestock Research Unit in Ames, Iowa, a 2001 Early Career Research Scientist. He was selected for his leadership and contributions to understanding of the diagnosis, control, and pathogenesis of tuberculosis in domestic livestock and wildlife.

In 1994, white-tailed deer in northern Michigan were found to be a host species of Mycobacterium bovis, and posed a threat to national efforts to eradicate TB from domestic livestock. Dr. Palmer conducted controlled studies and developed an experimental model for challenging deer with M bovis so a disease is produced that mimics characteristics of naturally infected deer. He demonstrated that infected deer could shed M bovis in saliva, nasal secretions, urine, and feces. He and other scientists are also using information on the immune response of white-tailed deer to M bovis to select and screen potential vaccines that protect deer from TB infection.