EveryCat Health Foundation has awarded Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (Ross Vet) colleagues, Ananda Muller, DVM, MSc, PhD (PI), and Anna Becker, DVM, MSc, PhD (CO-PI), a $32K USD grant for their proposal - Unravelling the blood bacterial microbiome in healthy and febrile domestic cats via 16S rRNA metagenomics. EveryCat Health Foundation, formerly the Winn Feline Foundation, has awarded grants for groundbreaking research that benefits disease prevention, veterinary treatment, healthy home habits, and advancing the science of better medicine for cats and their owners.
For Dr. Muller, an associate professor of veterinary microbiology at Ross Vet, this project is a continuation of research that she began during her time as a professor at Austral University of Chile. “When I was in Chile, I was told that they were not aware of blood borne and vector borne bacteria being present in animals on the country,” recalled Dr. Muller. “I found some of these bacteria in cats and was awarded my first ever intramural grant to continue researching bacteria in cats.”
The origin of her current research project and funding started just before Dr. Muller accepted her position to join the faculty at Ross Vet. In fact, she credits her research as the driving force behind what brought her to St. Kitts: “My research guided me to Ross Vet. St. Kitts has great weather for the kind of diseases we are studying, so I was sure that I would have plenty to research. I also realized that I had more opportunities to grow and research internationally at RUSVM than I could in Chile.”
Through their research, Drs. Muller and Becker aim to understand the diversity of the blood bacterial microbiome of healthy cats compared to febrile cats. “It was thought that the blood is a sterile tissue where there are no bacteria or microbes at all, but we now know that is not true,” said Dr. Muller. “Even healthy animals and healthy humans might have bacteria in blood, but we do not have many studies on cats. So, we start trying to identify the baseline bacteria present in the blood of cats.”
Drs. Muller and Becker will be joined during this research project by Liam Kitson, Class of ’25, as part of the grant funding to include a current student obtaining their master’s in science by research degree and the Ludwig Maximilian's University, Germany, where two external feline experts (CO-PIs), will give support on interpreting the obtained results on the clinical setting. Together, the five expect to define the baseline for blood bacterial microbiome in healthy cats by age and sex and understand the role of microbial communities in cats with fever, setting the stage for future applications in the clinical context. The study is using stored Genomic DNA samples purified from blood of cats, obtained from a total 300 domestic client-owned healthy and febrile cats.