Parasites are organisms that live in or on another animal (or human) species. Traditionally, parasites are eukaryotic organisms, which includes worms and single-celled parasites known as protozoans but does not include bacteria and viruses. The Gluck Center has two parasitology research programs. One is led by Dr. Daniel K. Howe and is focused on the protozoan parasite Sarcocystis neurona, which is the cause of Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM). The other program is focused on helminth (worm) parasites of horses and is under the direction of Dr. Martin K Nielsen.
Researchers in this Area
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Areas of Research
Diagnosing current infection, with parasites that could be affecting equine health is important because it allows appropriate treatment intervention and management adjustments. We are working to develop, validate, and refine techniques for diagnosis of important equine parasites. Similarly, it is important to reliably evaluate treatment efficacy and monitor development of drug resistance, and we are working to develop and refine testing frameworks for this purpose as well.
Parasite control involves but is not limited to appropriate medication as aspects of pasture and equine management are highly relevant as well. Drug resistance has become extremely common in equine parasites and viable treatment options are limited. We are working to develop and test novel treatment modalities for helminth and protozoan parasites, and we work actively to document and characterize drug resistance in important equine parasites.
While equine parasites are capable of causing severe and life-threatening disease in horses, this happens on a relatively rare basis. Depending on the parasite and the infection intensity, horses generally tolerate parasite infections with no adverse health effects. We work to better understand host/parasite interactions and the impact of parasite infection on immune and inflammatory responses in the horse.
Sequencing and mapping the genetic code of important equine parasites allows for a better understanding of parasite biology, adaptation to drug treatment, and strategies for evading the immune response. This work also provides opportunities for identifying novel diagnostic targets and possible new treatment modalities.
Understanding parasite transmission patterns under different climatic conditions and management systems is essential for developing recommendations for parasite control. These aspects also have big impacts on the development of drug resistance. We are using a combination of computer simulation and on-farm data to describe and understand these patterns and their implications for parasite control.