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Meenakshi Rajeev

Meenakshi Rajeev

Swanson Family Feline Research Summer Scholar
The University of Georgia
College of Veterinary Medicine
Class of 2019

Research Interests

Utilizing microsatellites to track genetic diversity in Cytauxzoon felis

Meenakshi Rajeev, Jaime Tarigo, David Peterson

College of Veterinary Medicine (Rajeev), Department of Pathology (Tarigo), Department of Infectious Diseases and Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases (Peterson), University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

Cytauxzoonosis is a tick-borne, hemoprotozoal disease of domestic cats whose causative agent is the apicomplexan, protozoan parasite, Cytauxzoon felis. Previously, this disease has been associated with extremely high fatality rates, however, more recent reports have been emerging of domestic cats surviving the infection with and without treatment. This variability in clinical outcomes leads us to question if distinct genotypes of this parasite can be linked to clinical outcome. In this pilot study, we focused on utilizing microsatellite loci (highly variable, short tandem DNA repeat regions) as a tool to assess genetic diversity in C. felis populations across the southeastern United States. Initially, we found 36,460 microsatellites within the C. felis genome. After sorting to identify those with the longest repeat regions, we created primers sets for 30 microsatellite loci spread out across unique C. felis contigs. We observed positive amplification of C. felis positive DNA with 29 of the 30 primer sets. Next, to validate polymorphic microsatellite loci, we utilized a standard genotype assay and tested our primer sets against 12 C. felis positive samples from diverse geographical locations in Georgia, Arkansas, Missouri, and Florida. We identified 16 of the 30 microsatellite loci as polymorphic, and further tested these against 24 C. felis positive samples evenly distributed across Georgia and Arkansas. By establishing these polymorphic microsatellite loci within the C. felis genome, we aim to explore the population genetics parameters of C. felis, establish distinct genotypes within the population, and assess if specific genotypes can be linked with clinical outcomes.

Research Grant: None

Student Support: UGA Swanson Family Feline Research Fund: Summer Research Stipend

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