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Photo: Examining an electrophoresis gel, zoologist Benjamin Rosenthal identifies fragments of genes isolated from related species of parasites. Link to photo information
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Proposal to Shake Down Protozoans Wins Top Award

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
November 14, 2002

Agricultural Research Service scientist Benjamin M. Rosenthal has won the agency's T.W. Edminster Research Associate Award for the top-ranked proposal for the ARS 2003 Postdoctoral Research Associate Program.

Rosenthal and colleagues at the ARS Parasite Biology, Epidemiology and Systematics Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., have been working to discern how similar parasitic species are related to one another and how to tell them apart. These parasites include Neospora, Hammondia, Besnoitia and Sarcocystis, which form cysts in the muscles of certain animals, wildlife and even people.

Rosenthal proposed to compare how genetically variable these parasite species are to Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite threatening the health of pregnant women and immuno-compromised persons. The work will help define the risk to human health posed by such related parasites.

ARS, the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, allocated $4 million to fund 50 projects, which were selected from 434 proposals submitted. Each ARS project scientist awarded will recruit a qualified postdoctoral research associate for two years to help solve agricultural problems critical to the national agenda. Other winning proposals include:

  • Development of an economical method to measure the bioavailability of elemental iron powders used in food fortification. Low iron is the nutritional deficiency most common worldwide. The development could serve as a basis for formulating policies for iron fortification of staple foods.
  • Identification of regions in the tropical maize genome that control the plant's response to day length. The research could support breeding that adapts tropical maize to temperate conditions, which would broaden U.S. corn breeders' genetic base.
  • Development of methods to bio-convert low-value, surplus fats, oils and byproducts from agricultural processing and animal rendering into commercial products. Such biosurfactants form the basis of detergents, industrial cleaners and cosmetic creams.

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