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Faculty Research

RUSVM faculty members participate in research projects totaling more than $12 million since 2010 from grant-awarding bodies, industry, corporates and governments, and in 2015, our faculty contributed to scholarly literature by publishing almost 100 scientific papers in high quality, peer-reviewed journals.

Our research team comprises faculty from across the globe—many with experience at international agencies such as the World Health Organization. RUSVM is providing opportunities for our students to engage in research and benefit from being taught by research leaders in their field—enriching RUSVM's reputation for developing career-ready graduates.

Intramural Research Projects

  • Public Health and Epidemiology

    Public Health and epidemiology including zoonotic infectious and parasitic diseases

    "Morphologic and Molecular Pathogenesis Study of Renal Lesions in Swine Slaughtered at The Saint Kitts Abattoir"


    PI: Carmen Fuentealba


    Co-PI: Oscar Illanes, Esteban Soto, Chengming Wang, Tracey Challenger, Lesroy Henry


    Overview: The prevalence and public health implications of nephritis and other diseases in the swine population of St. Kitts are currently unknown. The swine industry in St. Kitts and Nevis is relatively small (approximately 80 to 100 tons of pork are produced annually) and primarily the result of the efforts of small “backyard” producers. The St. Kitts Department of Agriculture, however, is targeting efforts in increasing pork production under improved systems of feeding and housing that would enhance compliance with food safety requirements and would allow local producers to successfully compete for the growing demands of high quality pork. This project will study the presence of different aerobic and facultative anaerobic emergent pathogens causing embolic nephritis in pigs. Pathological and bacteriological methods are proposed to study the pathogenesis of emergent swine diseases in the island of St. Kitts.


    The objectives of this project are to provide a description of the morpologic changes from swine kidneys condemned at the slaughter house in St. Kitts as well as provide identification of etiologic agents from swine kidneys condemned at the slaughter house in St. Kitts.


    "Prevalence of otitis media in St. Kitts swine slaughtered at the St. Kitts Abattoir"


    PI: Oscar Illanes


    Co-PI: Carmen Fuentealba, Esteban Soto, Tracey Challenger, Lesroy Henry


    Overview: Diseases of the ear in farm animals have received little attention, largely because the involved organs are difficult to examine in the live animal and they are often overlooked during routine post-mortem examinations. Like in humans otitis media in pigs is primarily the result of an ascending bacterial infection through the nasopharynx in animals with upper respiratory disease and may occur as small epizootics. The prevalence and economic implications of otitis media and other diseases in the swine population of St. Kitts are currently unknown. It is likely that animals affected by a middle ear infection will perform at a substandard level leading to decreased body weight gains and a delay in reaching market weight. This will be reflected in increased labor, housing, manure handling and depreciation cost for the producer.


    The objectives of this project are to determine whether or not otitis media can be found in slaughtered swine from the Island of St. Kitts, West Indies, the causative agents involved, and to estimate its prevalence in the local swine population.


    "Prevalence of Yersinia enterocolitica Amongst Potential Vertebrate Hosts and the Environment in a Non-human Primate Research Center Experiencing an Outbreak of Yersiniosis"


    PI: Esteban Soto


    Overview: Yersinia enterocolitica is a zoonotic, Gram-negative, member of the family Enterobacteriaceae and the causative agent of mesenteric lymphadenitis, terminal ileitis, acute gastroenteritis, and septicemia in domestic animals, wildlife and primates. The bacterium has been isolated from an ongoing outbreak in diseased captive African vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops sabaeus) from the island of St. Kitts, West Indies. Acute mortality, bloody diarrhea and depression were observed in affected animals. More than forty monkeys have died since the beginning of the outbreak in early June 2012. The identity of isolates recovered from ten diseased monkeys was confirmed, by the use of amplification and sequence comparison of the 16S ribosomal RNA gene, to be Y. enterocolitica. This is the first confirmed outbreak of yersiniosis affecting the African vervet monkey population in the Caribbean. No studies on the prevalence of Y. enterocolitica in Saint Kitts wildlife population are currently available. Findings in this investigation may provide important information not only on issues related to Public Health but also on the health status of the local wildlife population regarding this specific pathogen. The contribution to Public Health and to the knowledge on the overall health of the St. Kitts wildlife in this time-pressing study seems well-aligned with the goals of RUSVM to play a pro-active and beneficial role in the local environment.


    This is study will be conducted in multiple stages. Stage 1’s objective will be to study the prevalence of Yersinia enterocolitica in African vervet monkeys, humans, dogs, cats, mongoose and rodents at the Primate Research Center (Behavioural Science Foundation) and its vicinity by conventional bacteriological methods. The second stage of the study will aim to validate molecular diagnostic methodologies to detect Yersinia enterocolitica from water, soil, food and fecal material from the surrounds of the monkey housing and to serotype, genotype and biotype all isolates of Yersinia enterocolitica recovered from the tested animals.


    “Interaction of hypermucoid and non-hypermucoid Klebsiella pneumoniae with non-human primate immune system”


    PI: Esteban Soto


    Co-PI: Roberta Palmour, Janet Beeler


    Overview: Klebsiella pneumoniae is a Gram-negative, facultative anaerobic bacterium associated with a range of infections in humans and animals, including bacterial pneumonia, septicemia, urinary tract infections, meningitis, and soft tissue infections in hospitalized human patients. Similar signs have been seen in Old and New World monkeys. A novel, invasive clinical form of the disease has emerged over the last two decades, and was first noted in humans in Taiwan but has now been reported in humans worldwide. This fatal syndrome is characterized by osteomyelitis, meningitis, and multisystemic abscesses, including pulmonary, hepatic, cervical, and brain abscess. Invasive K. pneumoniae strains are associated with a phenotype known as the hypermucoviscosisty (HMV) phenotype.


    The purpose of the study is to develop and test different serological and immunological methods to investigate immune response in non-human primates; including development of diagnostic methods such as ELISA. Also to investigate the role of the hypermucoviscosity phenotype of Klebsiella pneumoniae isolated from non-human primates through its interactions with vervet-derived innate and adaptive immune factors.


    “Detection and typing of pathogenic Leptospira spp. in environmental water on St. Kitts”


    PI: Ashutosh Verma


    Overview: Leptospira interrogans and several other members of that spirochete genus are the causative agents of leptospirosis. Leptospirosis in dogs, cattle, horses and pigs is characterized by varied signs including renal and/or reproductive failure. Symptoms of human leptospirosis may differ widely from patient to patient, but commonly include fever, headache, myalgia, vomiting, conjunctivitis, uveitis, meningitis, and jaundice. Between 5 and 10% of patients progress to the more dangerous, icteric phase of leptospirosis. Deaths have been attributed to acute renal failure, pulmonary hemorrhage, intracerebral hemorrhage, and multisystem organ failure. The prevalence of leptospirosis in many parts of the world is due to chronic kidney infection of a wide variety of domestic, peridomestic and wild reservoir mammals. Colonization of the renal tubules of carrier animals results in shedding of virulent leptospires in the urine. Leptospires survive in moist soil and water for weeks to months. Humans and animals get infected when they come in contact with water contaminated with infected urine. Leptospirosis is an occupational threat to workers who are exposed to open water sources or animals. Natural disasters, such as floods and hurricanes, may be accompanied by leptospirosis outbreaks from contaminated water. Leptospirosis is also a recreational hazard for people who swim and wade in contaminated water.


    The objectives of this study are to detect pathogenic leptospires in water samples on St. Kitts and to genotype the pathogenic Leptospira spp. in positive water samples.


    “Leptospiral uveitis associated antigens”


    PI: Ashutosh Verma


    Co-PI: Brian Stevenson


    Overview: Leptospiral uveitis is a devastating sequela of systemic leptospirosis in humans and horses. Interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein (IRBP) has been shown to be an important retinal autoantigen in equine uveitis. ERU is a chronic, recurrent inflammatory disease of the uveal tract with a worldwide prevalence of approximately 10%. It is the most common cause of vision loss in horses worldwide. The Appaloosa breed and horses with MHC class I haplotype ELA-A9 have been observed to be at increased risk of developing uveitis. The mechanism by which Leptospira cause uveitis is unknown, although there are indications of induced autoimmunity being involved.


    The objectives of this study are to identify the cross-reactive leptospiral proteins, analysis of interactions between cross-reactive leptospiral proteins and IRBP, and investigate intra-ocular levels of cross-reactive leptospiral proteins.


    "Epidemiology of dermatophytosis in dogs and cats on St. Kitts"


    PI: Ashutosh Verma


    Co-PI: Larry Betance, Heather Hotchin, Trellor Fraites, Esteban Soto


    Overview: Dermatophytosis is a zoonotic infection of the keratinized tissues caused by one of the 3 genera of fungi, Epidermophyton, Microsporum and Trichophyton, collectively called dermatophytes. Dermatophytosis is worldwide in distribution with increased incidence in warm and humid climates. In this study, we will screen dogs and cats with cutaneous lesions for dermatophytosis, and identify the fungal species in the positive cases. We will also study the potential roles of asymptomatic reservoir cats and geophilic dermatophytes in epidemiology of the disease. This study will provide information on (i) the prevalence of dermatophytosis in dogs and cats, (ii) dermatophyte species involved in the canine and feline infections on the island, (ii) possible sources of infection, and (iii) suitable strategies for control and prevention.


    "Assessment of the level of anthelmintic resistance in RUSVM sheep"


    PI: Jennifer Ketzis


    Co-PI: Jerry Roberson, JQ Robinson


    Overview: The control of gastrointestinal parasites, particularly Haemonchus contortus, in small ruminants is becoming increasingly difficult due to parasite resistance to common anthelmintics. Therefore, the current guidelines recommend determining which anthelmintics are effective on a farm and then using systems such as FAMACHA or the 5 point evaluation to enable selective treatments.


    At RUSVM, due primarily to a lack of personnel, anthelmintic resistance testing and selective treatments have not been feasible. However, with the addition of a Small Ruminant Club at RUSVM (student chapter of the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners (AASRP)), it is now feasible to introduce a parasite management program. The first part of this program is to assess anthelmintic resistance using the three anthelmintics available on St. Kitts.


    "Epidemiology of Toxoplasmosis in the Caribbean"


    PI: Patrick Kelly


    Co-PI(s): Lee Innes, Frank Katzer


    Overview:Toxoplasma gondii is the most successful parasite worldwide, capable of infecting all warm blooded animals including people. There is a wide spectrum of clinical responses following infection in different animal species which ranges from acute fatal disease, congenital disease, behavioural changes and no obvious clinical signs. Factors that may influence the outcome of T. gondii infection in animals include whether the species has evolved alongside the cat, the definitive host of the parasite, how their immune systems respond to the infection and the influence of the parasite strain. T. gondii can cause acute fatal disease in marsupials and sea mammals that have largely evolved in isolation of the cat. Congenital disease is a major cause of reproductive failure in sheep and goats worldwide, if pregnant animals become infected for the first time with T. gondii. Food animals such as pigs, chickens, sheep, goats and cattle may also pose a risk to public health if people consume undercooked meat products that may harbour T. gondii tissue cysts. Toxoplasma gondii can cause severe neurologic or ocular disease in the foetus during pregnancy and post-natally infected humans, especially the immunocompromised. Primary infection during pregnancy may cause spontaneous abortion or stillbirth. A newborn exposed to T. gondii in utero may develop congenital toxoplasmosis with major ocular and neurological consequences. The disease burden of congenital toxoplasmosis as represented by the disability-adjusted life years is the highest among all food-borne pathogens.


    The main aims of the proposal are to examine the prevalence and genetic diversity of Toxoplasma gondii in a range of different livestock and wildlife species on St Kitts and Nevis islands. The project will initially focus in these areas with the intention of conducting further studies on other islands within the Caribbean. As Toxoplasma gondiiis a zoonotic pathogen there is also the opportunity to include some human samples within the study and to take a One Health approach to the study of the epidemiology of Toxoplasma gondii.

  • Conservation Medicine and Environmental Health

    “Potential of Artificial Reefs for Fisheries Enhancement and Mitigation of Coral Reef Degradation in St. Kitts, W.I.”


    PI: Emma Grigg


    Co-PI: John T. Kelly, Trenton Moore, Anthony Hall


    Overview: Degradation of coral reefs worldwide is well documented, and the reefs of the Caribbean have been heavily impacted by human activities such as coastal development, agricultural land use and overfishing (Mora 2008). In many areas, artificial reefs are employed to mitigate loss of coral reef fish stocks, although artificial reefs projects have sometimes been criticized for lack of scientific evaluation of effectiveness (Seaman 2000). Such structures presently exist in St. Kitts waters, primarily as recreational dive sites, but have never been systematically studied. This project will evaluate recruitment of reef fish assemblages and benthic organisms to artificial reefs in the near-shore waters of St Kitts, with the goal of documenting usefulness of artificial reefs as a management strategy under the proposed national marine zoning plan (TNC 2010).


    "Efficacy of a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) vaccine (GonaCon™), on reproductive function in female vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops)"


    PI: John J. Dascanio

    Co-PI: Jason Johnson, Kerry Dore, Lowell Miller


    Overview: A method is required to reduce the population of monkeys on St Kitts in order to control damage to agriculture crops. The solution to preventing monkey damage to agricultural crops is multi-fold involving reduction of the monkey population, protection of agricultural crops and providing an alternative source of food for the monkeys. Our study address but one aspect; reduction of the monkey population. A gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) immunocontraceptive vaccine (GonaCon™) was developed by the United Stated Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Service’s (WS) National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC). The vaccine creates antibodies against GnRH, thus decreasing the effectiveness of GnRH to stimulate follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and lutenizing hormone (LH) rendering a female animal infertile. In deer, maximum effects as a contraceptive occur two to three months post-vaccination and last for one to five years depending on the individual. With a second immunization the effect is longer in duration and may be permanent. There is no danger of eating deer that have been vaccinated and thus monkeys similarly vaccinated will pose no threat for human exposure. The purpose of the study is to determine the efficacy and short term duration of the GnRH vaccine in suppressing reproductive function in female vervet Monkeys through hormone analysis of serum samples and to determine the soft tissue reaction at the vaccination site.


    “Sea Turtle Management, Health Assessment, and Tissue Sampling“


    PI: Kimberly Stewart


    Co-PI: Terry M. Norton, Esteban Soto


    Overview: Few studies have been conducted on free ranging leatherback, hawksbill, and green sea turtle health and nutrition. Additionally, sea turtle nutrition in a rehabilitation setting needs significant refinement. In the case of greens, many United States centers feed seafood to these herbivorous turtles leading to a number of potential complications. Sea grass (Thalassia testudinum) was recently analyzed in a study evaluating sea grass and manatee nutrition. To date, no studies have been conducted to analyze leatherback, hawksbill, and green sea turtle diets. Sea turtles fill very specific ecological niches within the marine ecosystem and because they are such long lived highly migratory species; they are excellent indicators of the health of our marine ecosystem. Zoonotic diseases such as Salmonella are potential concerns for fisherman and their families that still consume sea turtle meat, sea turtle management teams, and ecotourists who come into contact with nesting females. The prevalence of Salmonella in St. Kitts sea turtle populations is unknown.

    The objectives for this study are to establish baseline nutritional and health parameters for nesting leatherback sea turtles and foraging juvenile and adult hawksbill and green sea turtles captured (both by the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network and those taken in the sea turtle harvest) in the waters around St. Kitts. Also to nutritionally analyze sponges, jellyfish, and sea grass commonly fed upon by St. Kitts leatherbacks, hawksbills, and greens; as well as to establish capabilities to culture Salmonella spp. at the microbiology laboratory at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine from various biomaterials obtained from hawksbill, green, and leatherback sea turtles.


    "Effect of temperature in the immune response of tilapia (Oreochromis sp.) to piscine francisellosis"


    PI: Esteban Soto


    Co-PI: Matt Rogge


    Overview: Tilapia (Oreochromis sp.) is one of the most important culture fish in warm-water productions. With a broad tolerance to different salinities and temperatures, tilapia can be cultured in fresh, brackish, or marine water. In developing regions like the Caribbean and Central America, tilapia aquaculture has been used as a source of high quality protein for local consumption and also to boost to the local economies. Disease outbreaks caused by emergent fish pathogens like Francisella noatunensis subsp.orientalis (Fno), however, have increased in frequency amongst commercial operations. Because fish are completely dependent upon water to breathe, feed, excrete wastes, maintain osmolality, and reproduce, understanding the physical and chemical qualities of water and its interaction with the fish host is critical for prevention of diseases and successful aquaculture. Understanding the immune response variation of tilapia at different conditions (temperature and salinity) could aid in the development of efficacious preventative methods (vaccines and probiotics). This knowledge will aid the regional aquaculture industry and reduce chemicals and antibiotic residues in local water, indirectly benefiting local wild aquatic animal populations.

    The objectives of the study are to identify Fno antigens that are recognized by tilapia and mouse serum when bacteria are grown at different temperatures in two different broth media, to study protection conferred by adoptive transfer of pro-nephros-derived monocytes obtained from vaccinated adult tilapia harvested at different temperatures when transferred to Fno infected fingerlings, and to evaluate the efficacy of vaccinating fingerlings with a live attenuated mutant at two different temperature (20, 25 and 30°C), followed by a challenge with wild-type Fno.


    "Population status of the long-spined sea urchin (Diadema antillarum) in St. Kitts, West Indies, and feasibility of urchin relocation as a coral reef health initiative for the region"


    PI: Emma Grigg


    Co-PI: Lewis Bogdanovic


    Overview: The long-spined sea urchin was considered a keystone species on Caribbean coral reefs, and the1983 mass mortality event due to an unknown pathogen is frequently cited as a major contributing factor to reef declines throughout the region1. Recovery of Caribbean urchin populations has been slow and mixed, with poor recovery in many areas, but increased urchin density reported in a few locations. In the absence of grazing pressure from herbivores like the long-spined sea urchin, macroalgae species are able to outcompete coral colonies for space, fundamentally altering the community structure of reef ecosystems. Coral reefs in St. Kitts waters have been severely impacted by past disturbances, and a 2011 survey noted an abundance of dead coral colonies, high cover of macroalgae (especially near the coastline, and off populated areas), and low biomass of surgeonfishes and parrotfishes. Current status and distribution of the long-spined sea urchin population in St. Kitts are unknown, although the 2011 survey found few long-spined sea urchins on their offshore reef survey sites.

    The St. Kitts long-spined sea urchin population will be assessed using established methods. Simultaneously, macroalgal and live stony coral cover, and herbivorous fish abundance will be assessed on the reef survey sites. Once abundance and spatial distribution of Diadema has been determined, sites for both urchin removal and relocation will be identified, incorporating the data on macroalgal and live coral cover, other herbivore abundance, and information on current local reef status from other recent reef health assessments.

    The objectives of this study are to determine the current population status and spatial distribution of the long-spined sea urchin in St. Kitts waters, assess macroalgal and live stony coral percent cover, and parrotfish and surgeonfish density, at all survey sites, and identify potential local sites for long-spined sea urchin removal and re-establishment.

  • Novel Teaching Methodologies

    “An investigation into the effects of an online social networking tool on student participation in the large group classroom”


    PI: Dr. Jennifer Moffett


    Co-PI: Dr. Shari Lanning, Dr. Dustine Spencer


    Overview: It is well documented that student participation is a vital component of the learning process. Students that are actively involved in a class are more likely to retain and understand the subject matter delivered. In addition, forms of higher order learning such as critical thinking are thought to be stimulated by active class discussion. However, encouraging students to participate in class can be challenging, particularly in the traditional large group lecture format. Typically, a minority of students present during these sessions will respond to questions or offer opinion.


    The purpose of this research effort is to investigate the effects of an online social networking tool on participation in large group lectures at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (RUSVM).


    "A web-based approach to teach Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine Students Skills for Communicating with Clients. The OSCE is used to measure Communication Competencies."


    PI: Ms. Elpida Artemiou


    Co-PI: Dr. Cindy Adams, Dr. Jenny Moffett


    Overview: In January 2010, RUSVM embarked on establishing an innovative and effective veterinary communication skills program to achieve outcome based competencies. Teaching and learning communication skills at RUSVM parallels successful methods used in other medical and veterinary schools.


    The purpose of the web-based module is to further enhance the current RUSVM communication program by providing a communication continuum throughout the seven pre clinical semesters without overloading the existing curriculum. It will certainly assist in teaching a large number of students, as currently exists at RUSVM. The web-based module will be accessed via the eCollege platform and as such students will have the flexibility to take the module at a convenient time either on or off campus. Further, the web-based consultation module may also assist another key aim of the RUVSM curriculum which is the integration of the teaching and learning of communication into the existing academic programs. Integration can be achieved by incorporating a “clinical” aspect that supports a specific learning objective addressed in semester three, within the presenting web-based scenarios. Accordingly, the two hours required to complete the web-based module will be incorporated within the semester three schedule as part of one of the existing courses. The web-based scenarios will be developed based on input provided by RUSVM faculty. Also, web-based learning may reduce the amount of faculty required and the invested time needed in teaching communication skills, both factors which can be a real challenge in most communication programs. Also, it is anticipated that the module may well be applicable to other veterinary programs.


    "Online reputation management: An educational intervention to reduce veterinary student’s exposure to risk when using social media"


    PI: Elpida Artemiou & Jenninfer Moffett


    Co-PI: Jason Coe


    Overview: Research to date suggests post-secondary students specifically practice high self-disclosure on Facebook, and tend not to use privacy settings that would limit public access to their profiles (Coe et al., 2011; Christofides et al., 2009; Thompson et al., 2008). A recent study assessing the personal social media use of veterinary students in Canada revealed areas of concern with respect to unprofessional, publicly available postings (Coe et al., 2011). The study found 77% of the veterinarians-in-training had Facebook profiles and 68% of these students disclosed extensively to Facebook. Content analysis on a sample of the student profiles deemed high-exposure revealed indications of substance use and abuse, obscene comments, and breaches of client confidentiality. In addition, one recent study from human medical education indicates that traditional professionalism teaching interventions “may not be translating into a change in online behavior” (Osman et al., 2012). In this new age of social networking, exposure to these activities may threaten the image of various professions including veterinary medicine.


    The primary objective of this research is to provide an evidence-based approach and educate veterinary students regarding social media to minimize the potential impact and risks of using social networking sites both to the profession’s and a student’s own image. A secondary objective is to identify whether or not attributes such as extraversion and introversion, as measured by the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) affect tendency to self-disclose online.


    "Evaluation of the flipped classroom approach in veterinary education"


    PI: Jennifer Moffett


    Co-PI: Dustine Spencer


    Overview: Active learning in the classroom has been linked to a wide variety of positive educational consequences, including greater levels of content acquisition and retention of material, as well as the development of higher order cognitive functions such as critical thinking and enhanced problem-solving skills. A new twist on the existing bank of educational research known as ‘the flipped classroom’ aims to facilitate active learning by turning traditional lecture settings into a student-oriented workshop where the large group cohort is broken down into small group units.


    It has been shown in the literature that the flipped classroom approach has a number of benefits, including an increase in the amount of student-teacher interaction in the classroom, and the ability to tailor content to the needs of students present in class.


    This research has two main objectives:
    i. Evaluation of whether or not the flipped classroom approach results in improved academic performance amongst students.
    ii. Evaluation and comparison of students’ perceptions of both the traditional classroom and flipped classroom approaches.


    "The Combined Effectiveness of pre-laboratory computer modules and interactive intra-laboratory tablet software in the study of veterinary gross anatomy"


    PI: Donald Adams


    Overview: This study is to determine the effectiveness of pre-laboratory modules in preparing the students to more efficiently utilize laboratory time. It also will examine if laboratory modules combined with intra-laboratory use of interactive anatomical software, on the tablet, will enhance student performance on examinations and long term retention.


    "Evaluation of surgical skills of veterinary students using a canine ovariohysterectomy model"


    PI: Robin Fio Rito


    Co-PI(s): Emma K. Read, Priti Karnik, Cary Hashizume, Julie Williamson


    Overview: At present, Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine utilizes an ovariohysterectomy model called the ROSSie (Ross Ovariohysterectomy Surgical Simulator) created by faculty and assembled by a local manufacturer. This model allows students to practice aseptic technique, body wall incision and closure, exteriorization of the uterus and ovaries, rupture of the suspensory ligament, pedicle ligation, as well as subcutaneous and skin closures. The use of the ROSSie model in the surgical skills training curriculum has improved the students overall skill level immensely. Another ovariohysterectomy training model has been created by the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM), in collaboration with Veterinary Simulator Industries (VSI). This model features a three-layer silicone exterior that allows students to practice a surgical approach and closure that feels more realistic than the fabric of the ROSSie model, which may improve tissue handling skills. Students can also perform an intradermal suture pattern, which is not currently possible on the ROSSie model. Various abdominal organs are present in the UCVM model, allowing students to practice locating the uterus and ovaries within the abdomen. Additionally, the silicone and fabric suspensory ligament is more realistic in its weight, tension, and feel during rupture. Although the UCVM model appears to be improved over previously available ovariohysterectomy teaching models, its validity in teaching veterinary students has not yet been established.


    This project aims to validate the UCVM ovariohysterectomy model and compare it to the ROSSie model and traditional approaches for teaching ovariohysterectomy.


    Our hypothesis is that the students with access to the models will perform in a superior manner to those that have access to the video training tool (the more traditional approach).


  • Clinical

    “Investigating the possible in vitro synergistic effects of florfenicol, oxytetracyclin and sulfadimethoxine: ormetoprim combinations against fish bacteria”


    PI: Ignacio Lizarraga


    Co-PI: Esteban Soto


    Overview: Industrial aquaculture faces an increase of antimicrobial resistance in fish pathogens and is limited by the number of antimicrobials approved to be used in fish. Resistance may be overcome by combining small amounts of antimicrobials that may have an increased effect. By using isobolographic anaylsis, we will assess the in vitro interaction of drug combinations (florfenicol + oxytetracycline; oxytetracycline + sulfadimethoxine:ormetoprim; and florfenicol, sulfadimethoxine:ormetoprim) with the hope of identifying synergistic antimicrobial combinations against fish pathogens. The results of this project will be used to design antibacterial therapeutic options that will be tested in further in vivo challenges.


    “Assessment of the mechanical hypoalgesic effects of butorphanol administered with xylazine in donkeys”


    PI: Ignacio Lizarraga


    Co-PI: Fernanda Castillo


    Overview: Combinations of α2 adrenergic agonists with opioid agonists are frequently administered in equine practice for their sedative and analgesic effects. In donkeys, the sedative effects of some of these drug combinations have been reported, but their analgesic effects have been studied to a lesser extent. Most of the methods used to evaluate their analgesic effects have used subjective and purely qualitatively criteria. By using a more objective, quantitative and reproducible stimulus we will compare the mechanical hypoalgesic effects of the opioid agonist butorphanol when administered in combination with xylazine. Recommendations on the potential analgesic effects of this drug combination in donkeys will be made which will hopefully contribute to improve the welfare of this species.


    “Assessment of the mechanical hypoalgesic effects of detomidine in donkeys”


    PI: Ignacio Lizarraga


    Co-PI: Fernanda Castillo


    Overview: The α2 adrenergic agonists with opioid agonists are frequently administered in equine practice for their sedative and analgesic effects. In donkeys, the sedative effects of detomidine have been reported, but its analgesic effects have been studied to a lesser extent. Most of the methods used to evaluate their analgesic effects have used subjective and purely qualitatively criteria. By using a more objective, quantitative and reproducible stimulus we will assess the mechanical hypoalgesic effects of detomidine in donkeys. Recommendations on the potential analgesic effects of this drug combination in donkeys will be made with the hope of positively improving the welfare of this species.


    Extramural Research Projects

    “Reducing the threat of introduction of heartwater disease to the US”


    PI: Anthony Barbet, Jeffrey Abbott, Rick Alleman, Amanda Loftis


    Overview: Ehrlichia ruminantium, the agent of heartwater disease, causes significant economic losses in animals and is a USDA-listed Foreign Animal Disease. This disease is endemic in parts of the Caribbean, and E. ruminantium could be introduced into the US by the movement of ticks or animals from the Caribbean. Recently, a genetically related but distinct Ehrlichia, PME, was discovered in the southeastern USA. PME is difficult to discriminate from E. ruminantium using currently existing assays, confounding the detection of a possible E. ruminantium introduction, and may also provide some level of immunity versus heartwater disease. In this project, we will characterize the PME agent in order to better define its relationship to E. ruminantium and develop diagnostic tests that can discriminate between these two closely related pathogens.


    “Evaluating improved methods for surveillance and control of the Tropical Bont Tick (Amblyomma variegatum) in the Caribbean”


    PI: Michael Dark, Jason Blackman, Patrick Kelly


    Overview: The usefulness of pheromone impregnated tail tags on sentinel animals to detect Amblyomma variegatum in the environment will be established. Further, the effects of pheromone and deltamethrin tail tags will be evaluated for control of A. variegatum and environmental factors that are involved in A. variegatum outbreaks will be studied.


    “Effect modification of HIV-associated CNS diseases by parasitic zoonoses in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa”


    PI: Helene Carabin, L. Cowan (OUHSC), H. Foyaca-Sibat, L. de Fatima Ibanez-Valdes, I. Targonska, M.A. Anwary, P. Yogeswaran, Chrisine Benner, S. Korsman, R.C. Krecek


    Overview: Tapeworm infections afflict mostly humans living in developing countries. One tapeworm (Taenia solium), which is transmitted between humans and pigs can, in some cases, cause brain disorders and this condition is called neurocysticercosis. To study this disease, a two-year pilot grant was awarded from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) - Fogarty International Center in 2009 to the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (NIH-FIC grant #1 R21 TW008434). The project is entitled:”Effect modification of HIV-associated CNS diseases by parasitic zoonoses in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa." This international collaboration includes many organizations. The principal investigator is H. Carabin at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC). Co-investigators are L. Cowan (OUHSC), H. Foyaca-Sibat, L. de Fatima Ibanez-Valdes, I. Targonska, M.A. Anwary, P. Yogeswaran (Walter Sisulu University) and S. Korsman (Nelson Mandela Tertiary Laboratory). Consultants include: R.C. Krecek (Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine) (RUSVM), P. Wilkins (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and P. Dorny (Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp). The study will examine the interaction between HIV-AIDS infection and parasitic diseases including neurocysticercosis and toxocariasis in HIV-AIDS patients.


    “Triple reassortment of swine influenza Type A viruses in Florida and the Caribbean”


    PI: Maureen Long, William Castleman, Paul Gibbs, Juergen Richt, Jorge Hernandez, Gregory Gray, Rosina Krecek


    Overview: This study has investigated Swine Influenza Virus (SIV) in pigs from developing swine production farming systems on St. Kitts. This provides much needed basic information to allow true evidence based prediction and outbreak modeling of emergent influenzas of combined animal/avian/human origin. This project builds regional expertise in the detection and characterization of SIV in subtropical US (Florida) and the Caribbean. 


    “Caribbean Eco Health Programme: Public and Environmental Health Interactions in Food and Water-borne Illnesses”


    PI: Rosina Krecek, Neela Badrie, Eric Dewailly, Martin Forde, Karen Morrison, Amanda Loftis, Elise Lee


    Overview: Caribbean EcoHealth Program (CHEP) is an international interdisciplinary program of researchers and policy makers to address key gaps in science and capacity building in the Caribbean region, including supporting domestic research agendas. This program currently involves 15 islands in the Eastern Caribbean in regional studies on persistent organic pollutants, zoonoses and burden-of-illness studies (gastrointestinal illness), microbial contamination of rainwater cisterns and of seawater, building capacity training in the region on food safety and a wide variety of environmental health training. RUSVM is collaborating with CEHP to monitor the human population for exposure to a suite of selected infectious and parasitic zoonoses.


    “Evaluation of the Nutritional Health of Hawksbill Sea Turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) of St. Kitts”


    Student Scholar: Jon Romano, Mentor: Kimberly Stewart


    Overview: This project evaluates the nutritional health of hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) of St. Kitts. The goals of the project include establishing health parameters for foraging juvenile hawksbills, determining the species of sponges commonly foraged upon in the waters of St. Kitts, and completing a nutritional analysis on the most commonly consumed sponges. Data from this project will be used to monitor the health of this species of sea turtle in the wild and also provide insight on the nutritional needs of captive turtles and may ultimately be utilized to assess the health of the local marine ecosystem of St. Kitts.


    "Mitigating the Diseases of Freshwater Cultured Fish Species in Hawaii and the Pacific Region"


    PI: Clyde Tamaru, Ruth Ellen Klinger-Bowen, Kathleen McGovern-Hopkins, Esteban Soto


    Overview: The goal of the proposed project is the continued expansion and diversification of the aquaculture industry in Hawaii and the Region. The project seeks to achieve that goal by conducting an initial epidemiology study of a Francisella-like bacteria (FLB) that would provide details of the incidence and distribution of the pathogen in Hawaii and the region. The project centers around three main objectives:


    1. Utilizing a combination of conventional and real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing and histological assessment conduct a preliminary epidemiology study on the Francisella-like bacteria (FLB) that is impacting farmed fish on Oahu, Hawaii and the region.


    2. Determine whether the Francisella-like bacteria (FLB) is also present in other freshwater and marine species in Hawaii.


    3. Summarize results and disseminate information through the scientific community and in lay terms via classical extension and outreach activities (e.g., newsletter, technical handout and workshop).


    Information obtained would form the basis for future research and extension efforts that would lead to the control of FLB in Hawaii and the Pacific region's aquaculture.

    “Use of in vivo challenges to study the pathogenesis of Edwardsiella tarda, E. ictaluri and F.asiatica in tilapia”


    PI: Esteban Soto


    Overview:Francisella noatunensis subsp. orientalis is a gram-negative facultative intracellular bacterium, and the causative agent of francisellosis in warm-water fish. Members of the genus Edwardsiella (namely, E. tarda and E. ictaluri) are well known pathogens of culture channel catfish, but only recently described pathogens in culture tilapia. The three agents have recently been recognized as pathogens of culture tilapia in certain regions. Previously, the RUSVM Marine Laboratory characterized different strains of these pathogens. Due to the emergent nature of these bacteria in cultured tilapia, development of good research practices and an understanding of the bacterial pathogenesis are necessary in order to develop good preventative and treatment practices.

Important Dates

Attend an Event
January 09 Spring Semester Starts
May 08 Summer Semester Starts
September 04 Fall Semester Starts