Sears Awarded EQUUS Foundation Research Fellow

Washington State University (WSU) doctoral candidate Kelly Sears, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM-LA, received the 2017 EQUUS Foundation Research Fellow for her research into equine piroplasmosis, which resulted in the discovery of a new Theileria organism along the Texas-Mexico border.

Sears was recognized Nov. 19 prior to the Frank J. Milne State-of-the-Art Lecture at the AAEP’s 63rd Annual Convention, in San Antonio, Texas.

Instituted in 2011 and supported in partnership by the AAEP Foundation and the EQUUS Foundation, the $5,000 fellow emphasizes the importance of assisting equine researchers in their exploration of horse health care topics. Sears also received a $500 stipend to support her travel to San Antonio.

Sears was initially involved in massive surveillance testing and treatment after the largest equine piroplasmosis outbreak in Texas. As a consequence of screening infected animals, the new Theileria organism was discovered. Her research group was instrumental in evaluating the new organism, Theileria haneyi, to define its pathogenesis in horses. After five years of investigation into T. haneyi, Sears is developing further research to determine the prevalence of the species, the consequences of long-term infection, and an effective chemotherapeutic capable of eliminating the parasite safely from horses.

Theileria infections in horses are a significant barrier to international trade and can cause considerable economic loss to horse producers globally. Her research will have implications for the millions of working equids worldwide.

“Dr. Sears’ research focus is extremely important to equine health,” said Don Knowles, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVP, a professor in the WSU Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology. “The parasite we are designating as Theileria haneyi is not detectable by current diagnostic methods. This award will allow Dr. Sears to gain more understanding into the prevalence of T. haneyi in horses.”

Sears earned her MS from WSU in 2014 and her DVM from the University of Florida in 2010.

“The contributions of veterinary research have been considerable, not just on animal health but also public health,” said EQUUS Foundation Chairwoman Jenny Belknap Kees. “We are pleased to help provide the financial resources to enable continued advancements by sponsoring the EQUUS Foundation Research Fellowship.”

For more information about this program and other scholarships offered through the AAEP Foundation, visit and select “Scholarships” in the “Apply for Funding” drop-down menu.

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