PULLMAN, Wash. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency named Donald P. Knowles, a Washington State University medical veterinary officer “Distinguished Senior Research Scientist of the Year” for his leadership in developing new methods to diagnose animal diseases.

The Agricultural Research Service recognized Knowles, who heads ARS’ Animal Disease Research Unit, at a Feb. 13 ceremony at the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Md. He and 15 other ARS researchers received plaques and cash awards for their scientific accomplishments.

“Dr. Knowles has been the driving force behind research leading to new diagnostic tools with which we can now more accurately detect infections caused by disease agents such as Anaplasma marginale in cattle,” said Edward B. Knipling, acting administrator of ARS.

Knowles led scientists in studies resulting in an accurate new test to detect A. marginale, the parasite that causes anaplasmosis, a tickborne disease that is responsible for an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 cattle deaths a year.

The test checks for natural antibodies that bind to parasite proteins in blood samples. In collaboration with ARS, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is using the test to survey cattle in tick-infested areas of the United States. The Canadian Food Inspection Service also has used the test to diagnose infections in cattle and bison.

Other diagnostic tests developed under Knowles’ leadership include tools for detecting scrapie in sheep, piroplasmosis in horses and bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle. Knowles, who has been with ARS for 12 years, is senior inventor or co-inventor on five patents. He is an author or co-author on 63 scientific papers and 18 book chapters.