$3.4 million NIH grant: Vet researcher gets competitive MERIT grant
PULLMAN, Wash.—Guy H. Palmer, Washington State University Regent’s Professor of pathology and director of the School for Global Animal Health, has been awarded more than $1.68 million through the National Institutes of Health for continued research.
The competitive grant renewal will be dispersed in annual increments of $336,375 over the next five years. The grant period will actually be years 11 through 15 of the project, which has been funded continuously since it began.
Joining Palmer as co-investigators are Professor Wendy Brown and Associate Professor Kelly Brayton of WSU’s Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology (VMP) and the School for Global Animal Health.
“The work of Drs. Palmer, Brown, and Brayton is of the absolute highest quality and unmatched by any other tick-borne disease research effort in the world,” said Bryan Slinker, interim dean of WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “Continued funding by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases within NIH, especially in these difficult financial times, shows clearly how valuable the answers to questions of animal disease are globally.”
When a disease-causing microorganism infects an animal, the animal’s immune system reacts. The microorganism counters with changes of its own that vary across species in the eternal battle of survival and perpetuation within the chain of life. Sometimes the animal wins, sometimes the microorganism wins. Still at other times, a sophisticated equilibrium develops and while the animal may control the disease, the microorganism resides and multiplies within the animal creating a reservoir of disease causing organisms.
The change process at the molecular level goes back and forth and the eventual outcome depends on many factors. Just how a microorganism can make such changes—and how fast--under the pressure of an infected animal’s immune system is the core of the Palmer team’s research.
Genetic changes are responsible for shifts in how the disease affects its victims and is a key to controlling emerging diseases. This results in new patterns of transmission, gain or loss of disease-causing ability, and adaptation to new host animals.
The microorganisms under investigation at WSU’s veterinary college are generally carried by ticks and affect both wild and domestic animals.
Looking at emerging infectious diseases reveals that more than 60 percent of emerging human diseases have their origin in an animal population. More than 50 percent are caused by bacterial or rickettsial microorganisms that cause disease known as pathogens. And more than 25 percent are vector-borne pathogens affecting cattle in various parts of the world producing losses measured in the billions of dollars annually.
“The research of Dr. Palmer and his collaborators has been truly outstanding and is the basis for the recently established WSU School for Global Animal Health,” said David Prieur, professor and chair of VMP.