Name: Fernanda Cesar
From: Brasilia, Brazil
Degrees and institutions where received: DVM, University of Brasilia;
MS and residency, Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine;
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

Fernanda Cesar, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, chose to come to the University of Kentucky (UK) Gluck Equine Research Center because of its tradition of excellence in equine research. She is currently researching equine neonatal immunology, with a focus on Rhodococcus equi and young foals’ immune responses to this bacteria under the supervision of David Horohov, PhD, chair of the UK Department of Veterinary Science, director of the Gluck Equine Research Center, and Jes. E. and Clementine M. Schlaikjer Endowed Chair at the Gluck Center.

R. equi is considered one of the most important pathogens of young foals worldwide as it can cause life-threatening bronchopneumonia. In endemically affected farms, disease morbidity rates can be close to 100% and mortality rates can reach 40% for R. equi pneumonia.

Despite many efforts, currently there is no protective vaccine against R. equi commercially available. So, prevention of disease is extremely important. Cesar’s in vivo (in the live horse) and in vitro (in the laboratory) research has focused on examining different components of foals’ innate and adaptive immune responses after they are either challenged with R. equi or naturally exposed to the bacteria. The main question she hopes to addressed is whether there are any differences in immune responses between foals that are able to spontaneously recover from rhodococcal lung infection without ever showing clinical signs and those in which the lung infection progresses to clinical pneumonia, requiring medical intervention.

“If we can answer this question, this information has the potential to be applied as an early diagnostic test with immediate clinical impact,” Cesar said.

“Over the past three years, we have performed two challenge studies and have collaborated with some of the local equine veterinary clinicians in order to gather a representative number of samples,” she continued. “I hope to have exciting results to share after we finish processing all the samples in the lab, and analyzing all the data.”

When asked what her most valuable take away from the program is, Cesar said, “All the laboratory work has been pretty much new to me since my background is mostly clinical.

“I have always read about techniques such as ELISAs, flow cytometry, and PCR, but had never actually performed and trouble shot them before,” she explained. “Also, the in vitro cell stimulation and immunostaining have been a great deal of my learning experience. I am positive that a better understanding of these techniques will make me a better clinician when it comes to interpreting results that rely on them.”

Cesar will graduate in spring 2018.

Alexandra Harper, MBA, is the operations and communications coordinator for the UK Ag Equine Programs.

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More information on Gluck Equine Research Center and UK Ag Equine Programs.