UK Graduate Student Spotlight: Kathryn Laura Smith

UK Graduate Student Spotlight: Kathryn Laura Smith

Kathryn Laura Smith

Photo: University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment

Name: Kathryn Laura Smith
From: North Augusta, S.C.
Degrees and institute where received: BS, Abilene Christian University; MS and PhD in Veterinary Science, University of Kentucky

Kathryn Laura Smith's combined interest in science and horses led her to pursue her master's degree at the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center.

Smith's research at the Gluck Center focused primarily on the neurologic manifestation of equine herpesvirus 1 (EHV-1). EHV-1 can cause acute upper respiratory tract disease, abortion, neonatal death, and neurologic disease in horses. Accurate and rapid diagnosis is essential to curtailing the pathogen's spread.

Smith's began her research by investigating the prevalence of neuropathogenic EHV-1 strains in Central Kentucky by analyzing archived samples from the 1950s to 2000.

"Later, I worked on improving upon a real-time PCR assay developed by my first mentor, the late Dr. George Allen (PhD), for the diagnosis and genotyping of EHV-1 from clinical samples," Smith said.

One of the objectives was to develop a more sensitive and specific allelic discrimination real-time PCR assay for the detection of EHV, and this was accomplished by redesigning the probes and the primers targeting the viral gene encoding viral DNA polymerase enzyme (ORF30).

"My most recent work involved determining the virulence phenotype of highly cell culture-passaged strains of EHV-1 in BALB/c mice," Smith said. "The EHV-1 strain I inoculated the BALB/c mice with could possibly be used as the basis for a new vaccine."

According to Smith, the improved PCR assay will allow for more expedient and accurate diagnosis of EHV-1, which will be invaluable during outbreaks. Smith recently accepted a job offer from a pharmaceutical company in Pullman, Wash., where she will work in the research and development division.

Shaila Sigsgaard is an editorial assistant for the Bluegrass Equine Digest.

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