tI h e NEWS FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE
UF veterinary pathologist finds foreign pathogen in exotic ornamental clams
BY SARAH CAREY
V vividly colorful giant clams decorate many an upscale aquarium.
But now experts say they boast an exterior beauty that masks an ugly truth:
their potential for carrying foreign diseases.
In findings that may impact the reef clam industry as well as international trade, a Univer-
sity of Florida veterinary pathologist recently discovered Perkinsus olseni, an internationally
reportable foreign pathogen, in aquacultured clams imported from Vietnam.
While not believed to be a threat to human health or other reef aquarium species, the
pathogen's presence concerns scientists as well as aquaculture industry representatives and
points out the largely unregulated environment in which the importation of aquacultured reef
clams from Asia takes place.
"I had 30 clams in my lab as part of a student research project," said Barbara Sheppard,
D.VM., Ph.D., a clinical associate professor of pathology at the UF College of Veterinary
Medicine. "Then they started looking sickly, and within four months, all of them were dead."
As a pathologist, Sheppard was intrigued. She began investigating the cause of death:
freezing tissues, putting them into formalin and conducting histopathology and DNA tests in
her laboratory. Her findings, which will appear in an upcoming issue of Diseases of Aquatic
Organisms, showed the presence of Perkinsus olseni along with a new species of Perkinsus that
has yet to be characterized.
"This is an important finding," said Ralph Elston, Ph.D., president of AquaTechnics, a
Carlsborg, Wash.-based company that provides veterinary, laboratory and environmental
assessment services to the shellfish industry. "It indicates the potential risk of the spread of
animal disease when health monitoring is not in place to control such risks."
Elston added that further research is needed to evaluate the distribution of previously
unknown species of Perkinsus in Florida.
Giant clams are the largest bivalves in the world. Their range stretches across the Indo-
Pacific region from the eastern coast of Africa in the west to the South Pacific in the east,
according to the United Nations Environment Program's World Conservation Monitoring
Center. These clams represent an increasingly large proportion of the live invertebrates
imported to become aquarium specimens. As a result of overexploitation, all species of giant
clams are included in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild
Fauna and Flora, an international agreement between governments that aims to ensure that
international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
Based on CITES data from 1993-2001, Vietnam has dominated the export of live giant
clams since 1998. The United States and Europe are the main importers, and captive bred, or
aquacultured, clams represent only about a third of the nearly 1 million tridacnids traded
Sheppard is now collaborating with the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, the Maryland
Department of Agriculture and Anita Wright, Ph.D., a Perkinsus researcher and associate
professor at UF, to further characterize the new exotic species of Perkinsus Sheppard discovered
in her clam colony.
"This is not a zoonotic disease, transmissible to people," Sheppard said. "No one is going
to get sick from this, as far as we know. The problem here is economic and international trade.
We know that Perkinsus is a pathogen of aquatic shellfish, and the reason it is so important is
that it makes animals very vulnerable to dying when the weather gets hot or when they get
stressed in some other way."
She added that a major pathogen known as Perkinsus marinus is already associated with
the depletion of major oyster stocks on the Atlantic coast.
"It's indigenous; you can't avoid it, and we know that particular pathogen is already
economically devastating to our shellfish industries," Sheppard said. "They don't want this
Pacific version of Perkinsus (olseni) to be transported here."
Although the infected clams were found in Florida, tridacnids are exported all over the
country and distributed throughout the hobby industry. Sheppard's findings suggest that
almost certainly clams infected with Perkinsus olseni and the new Perkinsus species have made
their way into consumer aquariums throughout the United States, she said.
"This is a great example of why you should never release an aquarium animal anywhere,
under any circumstances," said Ruth Francis-Floyd, D.VM., director of UF's Aquatic Animal
Health Program. Aquarium owners with questions about their animals' health could contact the
ni.ersiD' of Florida .eterirar, patnologist BarDara Sreppard inspects a group of ornamental
reef clams in rier laDorator' Ilarcri 21. Sreppar3 recently diosco.ered a reportaDle foreign
disease in a similar colon., of clams tr at ere part of a student researc'r project.
IPrioto D, Sarar Kie ,el i
American Veterinary Medical Association for
a referral to an aquatic veterinarian in their
Glenn Morris, director of UF's Emerging
Pathogens Institute, works regularly with
Francis-Floyd and Sheppard and said
campuswide efforts represent the importance
of a united front in detecting and trouble-
shooting new and emerging diseases with the
potential to affect animal and human health
as well as the environment.
"Working together, experts in animal,
human and environmental health can play a
key role as gatekeepers to monitor the
presence of foreign diseases and to encourage
whatever action is necessary to quell their
negative effects," Morris said.
The ornamental aquarium trade operates .
globally with very few restrictions to
transport product as quickly as possible, said
Craig Watson, director of UF's Tropical
Aquaculture Laboratory in Ruskin.
"There are probably 3,000 species
involved, and no one species has the value to
justify the cost of a quarantine facility big I-... ,... .- r.
enough to handle everything," Watson said. andJia.r,Lt.uld.. ,liv I.: l..iru .n enh.,a..;il
Members of the clam aquaculture Ihr.:,uNh,-ul Ihe I.ined ,Sle~ 1-. ie. .- research
industry as well as the oyster industry are nl:., Ih*e .:-im h ,:. ia rt...r Perl.nzus c:.ieni an
aware of the recent Perkinsus olseni findings .,.ieri.l,:..~., rei.:.niti. ir:.,re.,... ii,,n:jl.
and are trying to respond, he added.
Watson said he is working with Florida
aquaculture representatives who "really want to do the right thing" and added that his labora-
tory has proposed a voluntary protocol involving testing and quarantine procedures.
"The cost of doing this, however, is significant"' he said. "The ultimate goal would be to
start a Perkinsus-free aquaculture industry in the United States where baby clams that have
never been exposed to the disease are produced."
Three CVM students honored with Gulfstream scholarships
T three students from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine have
received scholarships from Gulfstream Park to further their studies in equine medicine
and surgery and research, respectively.
Established after the death of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, the scholarship
program is in its second year. One of a family of racetracks owned by Magna Entertainment
Corp., the park provides $12,500 in financial assistance, as well as professional mentoring
through the American Association of Equine Practitioners, to two senior UF veterinary students
committed to pursuing a career in equine medicine and surgery.
Those scholarships are known as the Florida Derby Scholarships.
In addition, the park provides $5,000 through the Barbaro Research Scholarship to a UF
veterinary graduate student who is conducting equine research.
The D.VM. student scholarships went to Weston Davis of Fort Myers and Ben Stoughton of
Gulfstream Park's scholarship program is in its
second year and was created in memory of
"Both my uncle and my father are veterinarians and they have been excellent role models
and mentors for my entrance into the career," Davis said. "My specific interest in the equine
field also came early in life. My family owns a beef cattle operation in Clewiston and I gained
a lot of basic experience in handling, riding, and training by growing up around working ranch
As Davis grew older, he began competing in rodeo events, primarily team roping.
"I found that I really enjoyed the sport and equine athleticism," he said. "This really shifted
my interest from general large animal medicine to sport horse medicine."
Next year, Davis will complete an internship at Oakridge Equine Hospital, a sports
medicine/surgical center in Edmond, Okla.
Stoughton, the other senior veterinary student winner, said he enjoyed working outside
and what he called the freedom of mobile equine veterinary practice.
"Equine practice allows for such case diversity and the ability to really touch people's lives
close to home," he said. He plans to join a group of veterinarians who work closely together to
provide excellent veterinary care and communication.
The graduate student scholarship went to Clare Ryan, D.VM., a board-certified internist
in large animal medicine. Originally from Wisconsin, Ryan is a 2002 graduate of the Univer-
sity of Wisconsin's College of Veterinary Medicine. She completed an internship in equine
medicine and surgery at the Ontario Veterinary College and a residency at UF in large animal
medicine. Ryan is now pursuing a Ph.D. in equine immunology. Her clinical and research
interests include equine neonatology, immunology, and Rhodococcus pneumonia in foals.
All three scholarships were presented to their recipients inside the winner's circle at the
annual Florida Derby, held March 29 at Gulfstream Park.
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Aquatic Animal Health Program veterinarian
honored with federal wildlife commission award
University of Florida College of
Veterinary Medicine veterinarian
has received the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Services Regional Director's
Conservation Award for his years of service in
the area of manatee rescue and rehabilitation. ...
Dr. Mike Walsh is associate director of
UF's Aquatic Animal Health Program. He
served as head veterinarian for Sea World of
Florida for many years prior to being hired by
UF in 2007.
"This award acknowledges Mike's
commitment and many years of participation
in the Manatee, Rescue, Rehabilitation and
Release program, as well as his significant -
contribution to manatee medicine and
conservation," said Nicole Adimey, a biolo-
gist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Walsh's 22 years in the discipline of I .
aquatic animal health have been marked by
innovation and improvement in the care of
manatees, pinnipeds, penguins, dolphins,
whales, sea turtles and sharks as well as
Dr. Mike Walsh
beached whales and dolphins.
Walsh also has contributed to the interna-
tionalization of Florida's aquatic animal medicine program with previous training for and
assistance to programs in Taiwan, Canada, Holland, Argentina, and South America. New
associations with Clearwater Marine Science Center and Georgia Aquarium will offer clinical
residents even more hands on exposure to state of the art marine animal medicine.
"The University of Florida was very fortunate to recruit someone of Dr. Walsh's stature in
the aquatic animal health field," said Dr. Ruth Francis-Floyd, director of the Aquatic Animal
"He is internationally renowned for his expertise in manatee and cetacean medicine. This
award is well-deserved and reflects his years of contributions to the field," she added.
Offshore student cereimoin is Ahai 2: commencement is Ahai 24
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New equine lameness and imaging service in full swing at UF VMC
new clinical service at the University of Florida Veterinary Medical Center offers horse
owners full-time expertise in the area of equine lameness and imaging.
'We provide referral MRI procedures to veterinarians and their clients," said Dr. Matt
Brokken, a board-certified surgeon who graduated from the UF veterinary college in 2003 and
subsequently completed a residency in equine surgery and sports medicine at Washington
He returned to UF in early 2008 to head up the equine lameness and imaging service at the
Alec P. and Louise H. Courtelis Equine Hospital.
"I will be a constant presence and my goal is to serve the referral community better by
being available as a resource whenever these kinds of cases come in," Brokken said.
The new service will provide information about the use and advantages of equine MRI as
well as providing evaluations of images from other magnetic resonance imaging units upon
Brokken has extensive experience with the use of equine MRI, as well as with the diagno-
sis and treatment of equine orthopedic injuries.
MRI allows highly detailed images to be obtained in multiple planes of bone and soft
tissue, and can examine regions including the foot, fetlock, suspensory ligament, carpus, hock
and head. The MRI imaging technique can help determine the specific causes of lameness,
which is critical to determining appropriate treatment recommendations.
Brokken also has conducted research into a new surgical therapy for proximal suspensory
ligament injuries and has used MRI to monitor healing of the ligament after treatment.
He will be working closely with UF veterinary radiologists and said he is excited about the
imaging technology UF has to offer, which in addition to MRI, includes CT, nuclear scintigra- Dr r. il Br. .sin.. e.miim ina.~ ,i j ,.- a a h.re s .c. I iame. Ir. n Ime n l.r..I I tin"
phy, digital radiography and ultrasonography.
"I believe our expertise with the MRI is second to none, and while we already have the
only high-field strength magnet in Florida, we will be getting an upgrade in our magnet
strength sometime in the next year," Brokken said. "That will increase our capability even
The upgraded magnet will speed up examination time and will provide higher-resolution
images, he added. The MRI upgrade is expected to be implemented by next March and a new
CT table for horses is coming soon as well.
"It's very important that we foster and nurture the relationship between equine surgery,
equine medicine and radiology," Brokken said. "Here at UF, we have everything that anyone
would want to diagnose and treat a horse, and we can do it all in one place."
That aspect of academic veterinary medicine is a large part of what attracted Brokken to the
"Being at this university allows me to practice at the highest level, and I'm very excited for
the opportunity to return to my alma mater," Brokken said.
Receiving days for the equine lameness and imaging service are Tuesdays and Thursdays
and surgeries take place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with the exception of emergen-
cies. Horse owners, trainers, referring veterinarians and others seeking more information or who
wish to make an appointment with the equine lameness and imaging service should call 352-
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Taiwanese veterinarian cultivates UF ties, tools to better teach students
at alma mater in Taiwan
BY SARAH CAREY
Taiwanese veterinarian who earned a
Ph.D. at the University of Florida
College of Veterinary Medicine in
pharmacology is now teaching future
veterinarians in his home country with tools
he couldn't have anticipated while a student
here one being a textbook he translated in
a subject he had barely studied.
Dr. Chi-Chung Chou, who since 2002 has
been on the faculty at the National Chung
Hsing University's veterinary college in
Taiwan, performed his doctoral work at UF
with Drs. TomVickroy and Alistair Webb.
His studies with the UF Racing
Laboratory familiarized Chou with various
analytical techniques, particularly relating to
drug testing in race horses. In general, Chou's
interests involve analytical pharmacology,
pharmacokinetics and toxicology.
In Taiwan, however, horse racing currently
is nonexistent, so Chou has shifted his efforts
toward developing analytical procedures to
resolve everyday problems that are related to
veterinary medicine. Examples of such issues
are food safety, drug residues, and meat
"Dr. Chou is so dedicated
to teaching his students
that he donated a large
amount of his time and
energy to translate our
textbook into Chinese for
his students to use."
Dr. John Harvey
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teachers," he said. "Even the publisher felt so sorry for me that they offered me 10 books of my
choice published by their company (Elsevier) as compensation."
In late April, Chou learned that the English version of Harvey's book had been adopted as
the official textbook for the national veterinary board examination for clinical pathology. The
national veterinary board committee discussed adopting the Chinese version, but decided to
wait until all of the terminology was reconciled to the terminology used in the previous
Chou fondly recalls many of his colleagues from UF, individuals with whom he still stays
in touch. Those include Dr. Murray Brown, Dr. Pat Colahan, Dr. Huisheng Xie, Dr. Charles
Courtney and Brett Rice, as well as Vickroy and Webb.
In addition, two of Chou's former veterinary students have come to UF to pursue graduate
studies Alice Chen, who is working with Dr. Richard Hill, and Rita Chang, who worked with
Dr. Elliott Jacobson this past year.
"I am also now the director of international student affairs for NCHU, and I really hope to
have the opportunity to establish regular student exchange programs, or any types of interac-
tions, with UF," Chou said. "I would like to become a bridge between my veterinary college
and UF in research collaborations."
And while horse racing is not a reality yet in Taiwan, it may be one day, Chou said.
"I hope to have an opportunity to go back to the UF racing lab to 'recharge' and share my
experiences in analytical chemistry," he said.
Dr. John Harvey
But while he can teach any classes in any of these areas fairly effortlessly, Chou discovered
soon after he was hired at NCHU that he was also expected to teach the clinical pathology
course. It was a challenge he had not anticipated.
"I was assigned to be the next teacher of veterinary clinical pathology, despite the fact that
this was not exactly my major," said Chou.
So he set about training on the job, and that meant touching base with some of his old
contacts from UF, including former clinical pathology professor Dr. Rose Raskin, now at
Purdue, and Dr. John Harvey, a veterinary clinical pathologist and chairman of the UF veteri-
nary college's department of physiological sciences.
Chou visited UF en route to a conference and met with Harvey, who authored the textbook
"Veterinary Laboratory Medicine: Interpretation and Diagnosis" with Dr. Dennis Meyer. Meyer
is a former UF faculty member.
"There were no current veterinary clinical pathology textbooks written in Chinese,"
Harvey said, adding that he had given Chou a copy of his recently updated book.
"Dr. Chou is so dedicated to teaching his students that he donated a large amount of his
time and energy to translate our textbook into Chinese for his students to use," Harvey said.
Chou liked the book's narrative style and felt it was a good candidate for his students.
"It was easy to read and understand, plus the Chinese clinical pathology textbook in
Taiwan is still the version originally published when I was using it in the 1980s," he said.
Completing the translation was not an easy task. Initially Chou enlisted several students
who were fluent in English to assist with the first version of translation, but he was disap-
pointed with the results.
"I thought I had a good plan, but my work load was still tremendous," he recalled. "In the
end, it took me 20 months to finish the job, including a restless Chinese New Year holiday and
three months of tedious and meticulous proofreading during my research sabbatical last year at
North Carolina State University."
When it was completed, Chou gave copies of the translated book to all of the clinical
pathology teachers at the four universities in Taiwan with veterinary departments.
"They were all happy to see the birth of the book simply because they believe it is way
overdue for another Chinese clinical pathology textbook to see the light," he said. "I am so
happy we did this."
Chou's reward for the work was psychological not monetary, he said.
"I only got two free copies of the book, a lot fewer than the copies I bought for the other
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