This award aims to refine the study of heartworm treatments using a mouse model instead of cats and dogs.
Heartworm is a parasitic disease caused by a filarial worm that predominantly effects cats and dogs. The worms reside in the heart or adjacent large blood vessels and left untreated, cause life-threatening disease. Current treatment options however can be also problematic as they induce rapid death of the worms which can be fatal to the infected animal. New therapeutics are typically tested in cats and dogs infected with heartworm. The studies can last up to a year with the animals experiencing a range of symptoms from reduced activity and labored breathing to cardiopulmonary embolism as a result of the filarial infection. With NC3Rs funding, Dr Joseph Turner has previously developed a short-term mouse model of heartworm that mimics the early stages of infection to avoid the use of cats and dogs. The parasites are propagated under the skin that combined with the short length of the experiment (up to two weeks) reduces the nature of the suffering caused when compared with the standard in vivo studies.
Joe will transfer the mouse model to two laboratories who have published over 50% of the papers on heartworm drug development in the last three years. The model will be validated by comparing parasitic yields and reference drug responses to results from Joe’s laboratory. The protocols and validation will be publicised on the Filariasis Research Resource Repository website and at conferences to encourage further uptake in the research community.