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K-State researcher working to improve alternatives to equine antibiotics

MANHATTAN, KAN. -- Antibiotics can save lives. But the increasing occurrence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria presents a number of challenges for researchers in medicine.

Veterinary medicine is no exception and Dr. Elizabeth Davis, assistant professor of equine internal medicine at Kansas State University, is working to help improve alternative methods for combating infectious diseases in horses.

"In veterinary medicine and medicine in general, we're running out of antibiotics, so we have to be extremely careful of the antibiotics we use, the duration that we use them and the species that we use them in," Davis said.

To help better prepare the horse industry for a limited number of effective antibiotics, Davis has researched the presence of antimicrobial peptides in horses. According to Davis, antimicrobial peptides are produced by the body as an immediate immunological response to pathogens and generally target and kill bacteria. Davis recently found genetic information relating to two of these peptides in horses.

The idea of stimulating the immune system to help animals efficiently and naturally fight infection is nothing new, Davis said. There are a number of commercial immune stimulants on the market, but they are rather mild and often have to be used in conjunction with antibiotics.

Specific DNA sequences found within one such stimulant are known as CpG motifs. These specific DNA sequences might be what stimulate an effective immunological response, Davis said. With hopes of helping to develop more powerful immune stimulants, Davis is examining different DNA sequences containing immunostimulatory CpG motifs to identify which sequences contain the most effective motifs.

"In effect, what we may be able to do is specifically turn on antimicrobial peptide production and other immune response factors that help ward off infection," Davis said. "What it would mean is we hope we could use shorter antibiotic therapy."
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Contact: Elizabeth Davis, DVM
edavis@vet.k-state.edu
785-532-5700
Kansas State University
22-Jul-2004


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