Research at Hendrix

Carly Roark '13

Biochemistry/molecular biology major from Conway, Ark.

Undergraduate research project

Testing for the Presence of Pathogenic Bacteria and Viruses in Ducks with Dr. Mark Sutherland and Dr. Varsha Kaushal.

I am raising four baby ducks and testing them for possible human pathogenic bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, Streptococcus pneumonia, Salmonella typhimurium, and Escherichia coli. I am also using PCR to test for the viruses H1N1 and H5N1. There is a preconceived notion that ducks harbor bacteria and viruses that could be harmful to humans and therefore one should not keep ducks as pets. I want to test and see if there is any truth to this belief.

I came up with the idea for this project myself and with the help of Dr. Sutherland and Dr. Kaushal was able to develop a procedure of how to discover if ducks carry harmful pathogens. Having raised ducks for a project in high school, I was always told to be extremely cautious when taking care of them because they could cause disease. I did not have any trouble with my previous ducks and honestly thought this idea was a bit extreme. Therefore, I wanted to actually test this theory and see if ducks could potentially be carriers of harmful pathogens.

How does your project fit with your interests and your professional plans for life after Hendrix?

I am hoping to attend medical school next year and am currently interested in Radiology. With any medical specialty, it is important to understand bacteria and viruses because of how detrimental they can potentially be. Determining a potential source of these pathogens could be extremely useful when trying to figure out how a patient contracted a certain illness.

What has been the most eye-opening or valuable part of your experience?

Initially, I began this project specifically looking for major pathogenic bacteria. Fortunately, I have not found any of these, but we have found a few opportunistic pathogens that we did not think would come from ducks. Being able to learn about these bacterial species and how to test for them has been an enlightening and exciting part of this experience.