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UPEI bovine mastitis research supported by New Frontiers of Research Fund

Dr. Marya Ahmed is exploring safe and effective replacements for antibiotics in treating a multi-million-dollar problem facing the dairy industry
| Research
A female scientist in a white lab coat stands with her arms crossed in front of a laboratory environment in which complicated-looking scientific formulae are written out on a glass wall
Dr. Marya Ahmed

A research project by Dr. Marya Ahmed, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Prince Edward Island, is being supported by the Government of Canada’s New Frontiers of Research Fund (NFRF). Dr. Ahmed is exploring methods to use short strings of amino acids, known as peptides, as a replacement to traditional treatments of mastitis infections in dairy cows. The NFRF is contributing $250,000 to this project.

Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary glands caused by invasive microbial pathogens. It is among the most costly and prevalent diseases in the dairy industry, resulting in considerable economic losses, decreased quality and quantity of milk production, and loss of animals.

“Treatment of mastitis is usually carried out by using antibiotics,” said Dr. Ahmed. “There is evidence poor antibiotic stewardship has led to the emergence of bacteria resistant to these antibiotics. We’re exploring the use of antimicrobial peptides, or AMPs, as a safe alternative to these antibiotics.”

Dr. Ahmed’s lab is developing new peptides for use in bovine mastitis, and new ways of delivering them into the inflammation, including attaching the peptide to a polymer to customize the release of drug.

“This is exciting research that will have a real impact on a serious problem facing the dairy industry and the safety of our food supply,” said Dr. Katherine Gottschall-Pass, vice-president academic and research at UPEI. “Dr. Ahmed works in both the Department of Chemistry and the Faculty of Sustainable Design Engineering. This project brings in the expertise of the Atlantic Veterinary College, through her collaborator Dr. Javier Sanchez. It’s a collaboration with endless potential to do good.”

The New Frontiers of Research Fund is administered by the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat, which is housed within the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), on behalf of Canada’s three research granting agencies: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and SSHRC. The fund supports international, interdisciplinary, fast-breaking, and high-risk research.

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