Message Number: SG14328 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Danee
Date: 2005-06-10 00:39:09 UTC
Subject: ADV Update Part 3
To: "Ferret Health List" <>
Message-ID: <>

I have been writing a series of posts for the FML about the UGA ADV
research project. Parts 1 and 2 were primarily about donations, and how
to make them, and so were not suitable for this list. However, I have
been asked to share Part 3 and Part 4 with this list. So, here is Part 3.

Permission to cross post the following information to other lists is
granted, as long as the post is taken in it entirety, with out any
changes or additions.

I realize that what most people are probably interested in hearing about
it what is actually happening at UGA with the ADV research and how our
donations are being spent, and so today I will begin to pass some of
that information along.

I am not going to give an accounting of exactly where the money has
gone, although I do understand that such an accounting will be provided
to Kris Barnes, who heads up CSI, and will be made available for
everyone to see when the CSI ADV Research Benefit Raffle starts.
Instead, I am going to address what has happened so far, and my
understanding of where things are going.

Let me start by saying that medical research, even veterinary medical
research, does not happen overnight. To be done correctly, there are
many steps that must be taken, and the accuracy of each step must be
verified before moving on. Look at how long we have been studying
cancer and AIDS. While progress has been made, there are still no sure
cures or vaccines for them.

ADV is a rather tricky disease to find a cure or vaccine for. With ADV,
it is usually not the actual virus that causes the health problems, but
instead it is the body's natural response to the virus that does the
damage. ADV causes the body to produce large quantities of antibodies
that do not affect the virus, but that do eventually build up in the
organs and blood stream, causing the damage that is associated with the

Most vaccines that are developed to protect us from disease are made up
primarily of antibodies that have been made to fight the particular
disease. Obviously, this kind of technique will not work with ADV. As
little as 10 years ago, it was said that there could never be a vaccine
for a disease like ADV. But, as our technology has progressed, we are
finding that we can accomplish some things that we previously thought
were impossible. In science and medicine, it is best never to say never.

Because of the way ADV works, it will be much harder, but not
impossible, to find a cure or vaccine.

Usually the first step in a research program like the one at UGA is to
look at the disease and what it does to the body, and to develop both
qualitative and quantitative methods to measure things. This can go
very slowly, and is not very exciting to talk about. Many different
techniques may be tried before deciding which ones will best suit the
needs of the project. Also, if it is necessary to develop new tests,
that adds to the time that this phase needs to be done correctly. But,
it is this phase of the research that has been going on over the last 5
years. And, it is now nearing completion.

When UGA started into this project, they (Dr. M. A. Stevenson) published
an article in the Compendium on Continuing Education for the Practicing
Veterinarian reviewing what was known at the time about ADV. Her paper
was sort of a starting point for the research. As they are finishing
the first phase of the project, they are now publishing a second paper.

This fall, in the Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, there
will be a paper about the findings and results of this first phase of
the process. The primary author of the paper is Kate Pennick, who is
the research technician that has been running tests on the samples that
have been sent by members of the ferret community to UGA. She has also
used the research she has been doing on this for her Masters thesis, and
will be receiving her Masters in Veterinary Pathology.

Now this news may cause some of you may feel that the research is being
pursued for the personal gain of the people doing it, and to some degree
that is true. Universities pursue research in part to train students in
the scientific process, and in part to get funds for their work.
Graduate students are cheap labor, getting only small stipends for their
work, but at the same time learning things in their chosen field. It
would cost a lot more for a major drug company to do this work, as the
salaries of their technicians would be much higher then the stipends
graduate students receive.

I do not know what Kate's paper says, as I have not yet seen it. I do
know in general terms what it is likely about, though.

For the past 5 years, the team at UGA has been looking at tissue samples
from ferrets with ADV to see exactly what the disease is doing, and also
they have been developing the tests they will need to begin the next
phase of the project. Because some ferrets with ADV never seem to
spread the disease, another thing they were looking at is whether or not
an infected animal is in a continuous contagious state. Additionally,
although it was suspected the virus was spread through the fluids of the
infected animal, they were not sure if it was all of the various fluids,
or just a particular one.

Many of the fluid samples they initially received from infected ferrets
were positive for ADV antibodies, but not for the virus itself.
Remember, antibodies are what the body creates to try to fight the
virus. Antibodies can not spread the virus. Only the virus, also
called the antigen, spreads the disease.

When they finally received a blood sample from a ferret that had antigen
present, they began an 18 month study on this ferret. Each month, they
would receive fluids, and would check them. In this case, fluids refer
to blood, saliva, urine, and feces. Over the 18 months, they found
antigen in the fluids, but not all the time, and not always in all fluids.

While this was looking at only one ferret, and so is not a statistically
valid sample on which to base broad conclusions, it did allow them to
form some hypotheses that can now be explored in greater detail. This
is often how research progresses.

Part of the reason I am so familiar with this study is the ferret who
was the subject was one of mine. And, I know from my discussions and
correspondence with Kate that much of her paper is about this study, and
what their findings were.

I think when this paper is finally available, it will provide veterinary
professionals with a better understanding of how the virus can be
spread, and what the routes of contamination are. And, while it may not
have all of the definitive answers, it will point the way to where
additional research needs to focus.

Tomorrow I will explain what some of the tests the team at UGA has been
working with, how they work, and how they can benefit in the detection
and study of ADV.
International Ferret Congress Health Issues Coordinator
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