|The giraffe is an animal that is prone to rapidly developing resistance to parasite treatment. Finding an effective drug can be a challenge as well as administering the drug.|
Treating the world’s tallest mammal for parasites isn’t the easiest job. The giraffe is an animal that is prone to rapidly developing resistance to parasite treatment. Finding an effective drug can be a challenge as well as administering the drug.
Dr. Gary West, former assistant professor in zoological medicine, and Dr. Butch KuKanich, associate professor, collaborated with the Morris Animal Foundation and the Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee, Fla., to find an effective way to treat giraffes for parasites.
“The problem with giraffes is that we have very little information on them, in terms of what drugs we should use and what doses of the drugs we should use,” Dr. KuKanich said. “Often times, the drugs and doses are extrapolated from other species such as sheep, goats and cattle. It’s the best that we can do with the information, but it still might not be as accurate as we would like.”
In order to conduct the research, Drs. West and KuKanich wanted to find a drug that was still considered clinically effective for giraffe parasite treatment, which was moxidectin.
“In the study, we wanted to look at the doses of moxidectin to see if the drugs were actually getting into the giraffe and what the concentrations were in comparison to other animals,” Dr. KuKanich said.
The research team worked with the Lion Country Safari to find available giraffes for research. The organization had giraffes using moxidectin as part of the normal de-worming process. The research team drew blood from the unrestrained giraffes and analyzed the plasma to see how much moxidectin was going into their systems and how long it remained in the system.
“There are two different methods we studied for giraffe parasite treatment,” Dr. KuKanich said. “The first method involves pouring the drug on the back of the giraffe, and it is absorbed through the skin. The second method is conducted orally. It is easier to use the pour-on method, but it’s usually not as good as oral in terms of the amount of drug absorption. We wanted to look at both methods.”
The Lion Country Safari staff alternated between the two methods and sent the samples to K-State. Then in the pharmacology lab, the researchers would measure the amount of moxidectin in the plasma. The results confirmed that the oral method was more effective at getting the drug into the giraffe. This showed the drug was being administered in the correct amount. The topical results showed inconsistency, and the concentrations were much lower than oral.
“We become concerned when the drug is administered in lower doses,” Dr. KuKanich said. “With the lower doses, you’re just killing off the weakest parasites and the more resistant ones continue to live. Over time, you can actually select a resistant population of parasites very quickly.”
The results concluded that an oral drug administration would be the more effective method in treating giraffes for parasites. The research team would like to thank the Morris Animal Foundation for the funding for the research. Even though the research project has officially come to a conclusion, this does not necessarily mean their work is done.
“Any time you do one study, you end up asking more questions about it,” Dr. KuKanich said. “The next obvious questions are, can we change the dose and still use it topically? Does this dose actually kill the giraffe parasites? There are many more questions in the field of giraffe parasitology.”