The Veterinary Community
Veterinarian oversees food safety for FDA, former AVMA staffer heads veterinary center
Dr. Stephen F. Sundlof has become the director of the Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, effective Jan. 7, after serving for more than a decade as director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine.
Dr. Bernadette M. Dunham, who was acting director of the AVMA Governmental Relations Division before joining the FDA, moved from CVM deputy director to CVM director.
Dr. Dunham has worked closely with Dr. Sundlof as CVM deputy director since 2006. She has helped coordinate and establish policy in research, management, scientific evaluation, compliance, and surveillance.
While serving as CVM deputy director, Dr. Dunham also directed the CVM Office of Minor Use and Minor Species Animal Drug Development. The CVM's newest office oversees development of animal drugs for minor species and for uncommon diseases in major species.
Before joining the FDA in 2002, Dr. Dunham worked for the AVMA Governmental Relations Division in Washington, D.C., for almost eight years. She started as a policy specialist, advancing to become assistant director and then acting director. Dr. Dunham previously held positions at several universities.
Dr. Sundlof succeeds Robert E. Brackett, PhD, who became senior vice president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association in November. As CVM director, Dr. Sundlof oversaw the regulation of feed, food additives, and drugs for animals.
Dr. Sundlof has served on domestic and international committees regarding food safety, leading the development of new international policies and safety standards. Since 1994, he has served as chairman of the Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Foods. He also provided input for the new FDA Food Protection Plan.
Dr. Sundlof was instrumental in putting in place programs to prevent bovine spongiform encephalopathy from entering the U.S. feed system. The United States has had no cases of BSE resulting from a failure of the feed system.
Prior to joining the FDA, Dr. Sundlof served on the faculty of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.
Domestic cat genome sequenced
The DNA of a 4-year-old female Abyssinian cat named Cinnamon has been sequenced, according to a report by Joan U. Pontius, PhD, et al, in the November 2007 issue of Genome Research, which details the first assembly, annotation, and comparative analysis of the domestic cat genome.
The genome sequence analysis is expected to lead to health benefits for domestic cats. Researchers also hope the cat genome may help in the fight against several human diseases, which is one reason why the National Human Genome Research Institute authorized the cat genome sequencing project in 2005.
Domestic cats possess over 250 naturally occurring hereditary disorders, many of which are similar to genetic diseases in humans. Cinnamon's pedigree, for example, carries a genetic mutation that causes retinitis pigmentosa. In humans, retinitis pigmentosa affects 1 in 3,500 Americans. The domestic cat also serves as an excellent model for human infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
Cinnamon, whose lineage can be traced back several generations to Sweden, lives in a cat colony maintained at the University of Missouri-Columbia. To make sense of her raw sequence data, an international team of scientists used information from previously sequenced mammalian genomes as well as previous genemapping studies in cats. In doing so, they found that Cinnamon's sequences spanned about 65 percent of the gene-containing regions of the feline genome.
The similarity between the cat genome and six recently completed mammalian genomes—human, chimpanzee, mouse, rat, dog, and cow—allowed the scientists to identify 20,285 putative genes in the cat genome. Although incomplete, these genetic pictures can show scientists which DNA regions were conserved across mammalian species, as they evolved from a common ancestor.
New swine flu subtype has avian flu genes
Researchers have identified a new strain of swine influenza, H2N3, which belongs to the group of H2 influenza viruses that last infected humans during the 1957 pandemic. This new strain has a molecular twist—it is composed of avian and swine influenza genes.
Agricultural Research Service veterinarians, Drs. Juergen Richt, Amy Vincent, Kelly Lager, and Phillip Gauger, conducted this research with Iowa State University visiting scientist Wenjun Ma; ISU veterinary pathologist, Dr. Bruce Janke; and other colleagues at the University of Minnesota and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The ARS veterinarians work at the agency's National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa.
The research team studied an unknown pathogen that infected two groups of pigs at separate production facilities in 2006. Both groups used water obtained from ponds frequented by migrating waterfowl.
Molecular studies indicated the pathogen was an H2N3 influenza virus that is closely related to an H2N3 strain found in mallard ducks. This was the first time it was observed in mammals.
Influenza viruses have eight gene segments, all of which can be swapped between various virus strains. Two of these gene segments code for virus surface proteins that help determine whether an influenza virus is able to infect a specific host and start replicating—the first step in the onset of influenza infection.
In the newly isolated swine H2N3, the avian H2 and N3 gene segments mixed with gene segments from common swine influenza viruses. This exchange and additional mutations gave the H2N3 viruses the ability to infect swine. Laboratory tests confirmed that this strain of H2N3 could also infect mice and ferrets.
The findings provide further evidence that swine have the potential to serve as a “mixing vessel” for influenza viruses carried by birds, pigs, and humans. They also support the need to continue monitoring swine and livestock workers for H2-subtype viruses and other influenza strains that might someday threaten swine and human health.
Results of this study were published Dec. 26, 2007 (Vol. 194, No. 52), in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
Laminitis projects garner support
Two projects focusing on laminitis will soon be under way, thanks to funds raised by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association in memory of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.
The projects, totaling approximately $100,000, will be conducted by researchers at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine and the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. Both projects are scheduled to be completed within two years.
The NTRA Barbaro Memorial Fund was created after Barbaro was euthanized in January 2007 following a series of injury-related complications related primarily to laminitis. In June, the NTRA presented $100,000 to the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. The foundation, a leading source of private funding for equine research, was entrusted by the NTRA with managing the funds, raised mainly from racing fans, racing participants, and racetracks.
The foundation issued a special call for laminitis research and convened a panel of experts to evaluate nine projects presented by researchers throughout North America.
Of the two projects chosen, one was designed by Dr. Susan C. Eades, a professor at LSU. She will work with Dr. Lee Ann Fugler, a PhD degree candidate in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences.
The project will continue veterinary science's efforts to understand the specific route of development of laminitis while testing the hypothesis that the medication doxycycline can prevent the onset of the disease and serve as a therapeutic agent for horses that contract it.
Dr. Douglas Allen, a professor at the University of Georgia, designed the other project. His work will follow up on recent research indicating that serotonin might be a key chemical responsible for the development of laminitis and examine whether a medication that breaks down serotonin might prevent the clinical signs of laminitis following carbohydrate overload.
New resource targets laboratory animal stress, distress
The Institute for Laboratory Animal Research has released “Recognition and Alleviation of Distress in Laboratory Animals,” a new publication about the stress and distress experienced by animals used for biomedical research.
The book aims to educate laboratory animal veterinarians, students, researchers, investigators, animal care staff, and animal welfare officers on the current scientific and ethical issues associated with stress and distress in laboratory animals.
“Recognition” evaluates pertinent scientific literature to generate practical and pragmatic guidelines. The book focuses on the scientific understanding of the causes and the functions of stress and distress, the transformation of stress to distress, and the identification of principles for the recognition and alleviation of distress.
It discusses the role of humane endpoints in situations of distress and principles for the minimization of distress in laboratory animals. “Recognition” also identifies areas in which further scientific investigation is needed to improve laboratory animal welfare in order to adhere to scientific and ethical principles that promote humane care and practice.
Copies of “Recognition and Alleviation of Distress in Laboratory Animals” may be ordered from National Academies Press by calling (888) 624-8373. PDF versions of the book can be downloaded for a fee from the NAP site at www.nap.edu/.
From the AVMA
Advance registration now open for AVMA convention in New Orleans
Registering for the 2008 AVMA Annual Convention in the Big Easy couldn't be easier.
Advance registration began Jan. 15 for the 145th AVMA Annual Convention, July 19-22 in New Orleans. The Web site at www.avmaconvention.org connects directly to the secure online registration site. The convention Web site offers complete registration and housing information, including maps, and access to the entire educational program. Online registrants can tell in real time which of the hotel options and prices are still available.
Registering early saves money and offers the best housing choices. A printable registration form for faxing or mailing to the AVMA is also available on the convention Web site.
More details, including registration and housing fees, are at www.avmaconvention.org. The site allows visitors to view the educational program via the CE Session Finder and customize their schedules with the Itinerary Planner.
AVMA continues to accept nominations to entities
Nominations continue to be invited for vacancies on AVMA entities and liaison positions.
The House of Delegates will fill council openings when it meets in July 2008 in New Orleans. Nomination materials, including the vacancies and descriptions of the councils, and instructions for publishing candidates' biographies in the 2008 Campaign Guide are posted on the AVMA Web site, www.avma.org/about_avma/governance/volunteering. Nominations must be submitted by April 1 to the AVMA Office of the Executive Vice President.
Two council vacancies have become available since the initial call for nominations (JAVMA, Nov. 15, 2007, page 1470). One vacancy is on the Council on Communications, representing private practice—predominantly food animal, to fill an unexpired term ending in July 2012. The individual resigned in November. The other vacancy is on the Council on Education, representing nonprivate practice, nonacademic veterinary medicine, to fill an unexpired term ending in July 2009. Consistent with AVMA policy, the board removed a member from the COE for cause.
Nominations for each of the AVMA trust and committee vacancy positions are to be filled by the Executive Board at its April meeting. Two nominations are also invited for the Political Action Committee Policy Board, to be appointed by the House Advisory Committee at its spring meeting.
Trust and committee nomination materials, including the vacancies and descriptions of the various entities, are also posted on the AVMA Web site. Nominations must be submitted to the AVMA Office of the Executive Vice President no later than March 7.
USDA proposes end to acclimation certificates
The Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has proposed amending Animal Welfare Act regulations regarding transportation of live animals other than marine mammals by removing ambient temperature requirements for various stages in the transportation of those animals. Marine mammals are not addressed because of their unique requirements for care and handling.
If approved, the amendment would make acclimation certificates for live animals other than marine mammals unnecessary. The amendment also replaces a previously published proposed rule, which is being withdrawn, that would have required the acclimation certificate for a dog or cat to be signed by the owner of the dog or cat being transported rather than by a veterinarian.
The USDA-APHIS wants to adopt a single performance standard under which a carrier would consider all climatic and environmental conditions—alone and in combination—to eliminate unnecessary discomfort and stress. Among the conditions that would be considered are temperature, humidity, exposure, ventilation, pressurization, and travel and holding times.
The proposal appears in the Jan. 3 Federal Register. A PDF of the APHIS proposal is posted at http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20081800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E7-25530.pdf.
“For many years, the AVMA has pursued efforts to ease the difficulties for veterinarians created by the acclimation certificate requirement, so we are pleased that this proposal has been issued,” said Dr. Rosemary J. LoGiudice, director of the AVMA Membership and Field Services Division.
As it stands now, ambient temperatures must be maintained within certain ranges during transportation. Animals may be transported, however, at ambient temperatures below the minimum temperatures if their consignor provides a certificate signed by a veterinarian certifying that the animals are acclimated to temperatures lower than the minimum temperature.
According to APHIS, the amendment would remove potentially confusing temperature requirements and acclimation certificate provisions from the regulations governing the transportation of animals and focus those regulations on ensuring that climatic and environmental conditions are maintained appropriately during transportation of animals.
The AVMA will likely comment on the proposed amendment, which is on the February meeting agenda for the Council on Veterinary Service. The Association's recently revised policy on acclimation certificates is available at www.avma.org/issues/policy.
The USDA-APHIS will consider all comments on the proposal received by March 3, 2008. To submit comments electronically, visit www.regulations.gov and enter “APHIS-2006-0150” in the Comment or Submission box. Comments may also be submitted via mail to Docket No. APHIS-99-014-2, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.