ID&I members recognized at Phi Zeta Day

Elizabeth Scherbatskoy delivers her presentation “Finding Nemo’s picornavirus”

By Thom Sanders

Every year, Phi Zeta Day serves as a celebration of the fascinating work and research conducted around the UF College of Veterinary Medicine. With posters and presentations from faculty, staff, graduate students, postdocs, residents, fellows, interns, and veterinary students, the event acts as an annual, all-inclusive snapshot of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s mission in motion.

Year to year, this also holds true for the Department of Infectious Diseases & Immunology, and this year was no exception. ID&I was well-represented at Phi Zeta Day in 2018, particularly among those recognized with awards for their presentations and posters.

Treenate Jiranantasak, a graduate student in the lab of Dr. Tuanyok, won an award for her poster detailing preliminary research into swine melioidosis in intensive pig farming operations located in Thailand. As the poster notes, melioidosis is a neglected tropical disease endemic in Southeast Asia and Northern Australia. Animals and humans can contract the disease after coming in contact with soil in areas where Burkholderia pseudomallei, the bacteria that causes melioidosis, is present.

Dr. M. Shamim Ahasan and Dr. Thaís Rodrigues, both postdoctoral associates in the Waltzek lab, also won awards for their poster presentations. Dr. Ahasan’s poster focused on the fecal bacteria of green sea turtles from the Great Barrier Reef, a particularly important microbiome for an animal with a largely plant-based diet.

Treenate Jiranantasak stands in front of her poster on swine melioidosis in intensive pig farming operations located in Thailand
Treenate Jiranantasak in front her poster at Phi Zeta Day. (Photo courtesy of Imnoi Kamonchai).

Dr. Rodrigues’ poster presented the complete genome sequences of two novel types of papillomaviruses identified in Indian River Lagoon bottlenose dolphins. As Dr. Rodrigues notes on her poster, one of the viruses recovered from the bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) matches a virus previously recovered from a lesion on a stranded killer whale (Orcinus orca). This suggests that the virus could infect multiple delphinid species, a finding that may have repercussions for facilities who house and treat cetaceans.

Elizabeth Scherbatskoy, a graduate student also working in the Waltzek lab, received an award for her talk on a virus potentially impacting the aquaculture industry. The presentation, cleverly titled “Finding Nemo’s picornavirus,” outlined the recent identification of a novel virus that may be a factor in mass mortality events plaguing clownfish aquaculture.

In addition to judges selecting exemplary presentations and posters, several scholarships recognizing overall excellence were presented at Phi Zeta Day. Andrew Nelson, a graduate student working with Dr. David Pascual, was awarded the Charles F. Simpson Memorial Scholarship. His recent research focuses on diabetesID&I also had faculty and staff presenting work at the event. Dr. Dan Brown, Professor and Interim Chair of ID&I, presented a poster alongside Dina Michaels, a senior biological scientist. Their poster detailed an enzyme capable of suppressing antibodies in canines, a potentially life-saving discovery for dogs encountering antibody-driven diseases like hemolytic anemia or lupus.

A complete list of this year’s Phi Zeta Day award winners can be found on the Veterinary Page. For more information about the research of Dr. Ahasan and Dr. Rodrigues, take a look at our recent feature on the 2018 North Florida Marine Science Symposium where both presented related work. A deep dive into Elizabeth Scherbatskoy’s picornavirus research can also be found on the Veterinary Page.

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