Young veterinary student receives major international award for research in antimicrobial resistance in dogs

Alice Diana, aged 24, from Rome, Italy, has become the latest recipient of the Undergraduate Student Inspiration Award, as part of the International Canine Health Awards 2023, to fund her current research on antimicrobial resistance among canines.

Alice became passionate about treating pets and joining the veterinary profession from a young age; having grown up watching her mother work in a veterinary clinic, Alice is now studying Veterinary Medicine at the University of Padua in Italy. During time outside of university studies Alice has travelled widely and spent summers interning in clinics in Italy and across Europe in order to apply theory in practice.

Alice’s interest in veterinary research was ignited by working with Professor Stefano Romagnoli, leader of the veterinary clinic department’s reproduction team at the University of Padua, where Alice immersed herself in a study to investigate the long-term clinical use of deslorelin, a synthetic hormone that induces temporary infertility in male dogs.

Alice plans to use her prize money to study antimicrobial misuse in canine breeding and to produce protocols to address factors contributing to growing antimicrobial resistance. Through investigating the current choices of antimicrobials in breeding dogs, the project will explore factors that may favour antimicrobial resistance leading to reduced success of therapeutic options and prolonging the agent's pathogenic effects so complicating recovery and presenting a health concern for both canine and human health.

The project will combine results from previous studies proving the pivotal role breeding kennels can play in increasing antibiotic resistance due to their incorrect or excessive use of antimicrobials and the uncontrolled treatment, especially in prepartum bitches. Alice is interested in analysing the correlation between the use of antibiotic treatments in breeding kennels and the incidence of resistant bacterial strains. To add further qualitative depth to her research, Alice will be exploring breeder motivations by producing a questionnaire to explore choices in medication: active ingredients, administration, dosage and duration of treatment, as well as the clinical condition of the dog.

On being told she had won the award, Alice said: “Winning this award means so much more than just the prize money, it is an award for me as a person and as a student. It means being seen and recognised as worthy by a panel of impartial judges that they are willing to invest in my future and help me reach my potential.

“It has given me all the confidence I need to keep working my hardest towards my goals.”

Running for over ten years, the International Canine Health Awards are the largest awards in the veterinary field worldwide, inspiring scientific innovation and recognising excellence in canine research, health and welfare. Organised and run by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, and with a major financial gift from Vernon Hill, founder of Metro Bank and the Vernon and Shirley Hill Foundation, the 2023 awards aim to make a truly global impact – with prize money more than doubled from 2022 and an increased focus on funding projects focussed on the One Health concept and those committed to advancing canine medicine in developing nations.

Applications for the awards are judged by a panel of independent and eminent international veterinarians and scientists. The awards will be presented via a virtual ceremony on Wednesday 12 July, 15:00 BST, with further details available to those who register their interest here.

This year, the International Canine Health Awards created a Special Award category to recognise the work of three extraordinary veterinary clinics in war-torn Ukraine, and each will receive a $20,000 prize fund to support their work. In addition, five individual winners have been selected in the following categories: the Alan Kelly International Award with a prize of $100,000; the Lifetime Achievement Award with a prize of $50,000; the two Student Inspiration Awards, undergraduate and postgraduate with a prize of $20,000 for the postgraduate and $10,000 for the undergraduate winners; and The Kennel Club’s Breed Health Co-ordinator Prize – the winner of which receives £5,000.

Dr Andrew Higgins, Chairman of the International Canine Health Awards panel and trustee of The Kennel Club Charitable Trust which organises the awards said: “Alice is clearly a highly motivated undergraduate and it is wonderful to hear of the clinical research ambitions of the next generation of veterinary professionals. With the judging panel’s focus on One Health this year, Alice’s work on antibiotic resistance – an issue affecting both canines and humans alike – really stood out in her application.”  

Vernon Hill, founder of Metro Bank, and whose major gift from the Vernon and Shirley Hill Foundation underwrites the awards, said: “It is always inspiring to read through the student nominations and hear about how much these young veterinary professionals are achieving at the start of their career. I look forward to seeing the results of Alice’s research which I am sure will be invaluable for both the human and canine medical field.”

Find out about the International Canine Health Awards.