Research on ferret diseases is well established at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University. The primary areas of research include infectious and neoplastic diseases.

Infectious Disease Research

Ferret Coronaviruses
Our infectious disease research has been focusing primarily on enteric diseases of ferrets. In particular ferret coronavirus diseases have been investigated by our team for the last 8 years. This is best reflected by a US patent (No. 7,225,986 B2) granted to MSU for "compositions for the diagnosis and treatment of epizootic catarrhal enteritis in ferrets". We are currently investigating the mechanisms of pathogenesis that are responsible for the differences in virulence of enteric and systemic coronavirus strains. We identified enteric coronavirus strains as the primary cause of ECE and systemic coronavirus strains as the primary cause of FIP-like lesions in ferrets. Following molecular characterization of these viruses, support is now urgently needed to create an animal model to develop vaccines for preventing these diseases.
Research 01

Ferret enteric coronavirus (labeled red with immunohistochemistry) replicates in enterocytes in the small intestine of a ferret with epizootic catarrhal enteritis

Ferret Rotaviruses
Only recently our research team identified group A and C rotaviruses as the cause of enteritis in young ferrets. Since the microscopic lesions seen with ferret coronavirus and rotavirus enteritis are identical, and are consistent with an atrophic enteritis, the development of different PCRs for rota- and coronaviruses in combination with sequence analysis were important achievements in our efforts to develop diagnostic tools for identifying the causes of viral enteritis in ferrets. Additional support is needed to develop treatment and vaccine strategies to better cure and prevent these diseases.
Research 02

Phylogenetic tree based upon deduced amino acid sequences of the VP6 proteins of Ferret Rota C-MSU; rotavirus group C strains, Shintoku (bovine), Cowden (porcine), Jajeri (human), and Preston (human); and rotavirus group A strains, Avian Rota A and Bovine Rota A.

Ferret Coccidiosis
Following numerous outbreaks of severe diarrhea in ferret shelters, our research team focused on the development of specific tools for the diagnosis of coccidiosis in ferrets. The primary cause of the recent outbreaks was identified as Eimeria furonis and a specific PCR was developed. Research continuous to better understand the epidemiology of these severe disease outbreaks and to develop strategies for faster diagnosis and preventative as well as therapeutic measurements. Support is needed to continue our efforts to fight this important enteric disease of ferrets that are housed in groups or kept in shelters.
Research 03

Sporulated Eimeria furonis oocysts.

Neoplastic Disease Research

Ferret Adrenal Cortical Carcinomas
In close collaboration with David Wilson, our research has been focusing primarily on prognostication and carcinogenesis of adrenal cortical neoplasms. We identified a more aggressive myxoid variant of adrenal cortcial carcinomas and characterized the importance of transcription factor GATA-4 as a diagnostic tool for detecting adrenal cortical metastases and for discriminating potentially aggressive tumors from more benign variants. Only recently, we were able to show that increased cytochrome b5 expression accounts in part for the preferential production of adrenal androgens and estrogen by adrenal cortical neoplasms and can serve as a marker of androgen synthetic potential in these tumors. Support is needed to continue our efforts to better understand adrenal cortical carcinogenesis and to investigate therapeutic and preventive strategies.
Research 04

Ferret with myxoid adrenocartical carcinoma that has metastazised to the liver.