Rebecca Bacon Named Director of Research Animal Pathology Service

Rebecca Bacon, DVM, DACVP, joined Duke with a dual appointment in the Department of Pathology and the Division of Laboratory Animal Resources (DLAR) at the end of December, 2023. DLAR plays a crucial role in maintaining the highest quality laboratory animal programs at Duke and serves as a valuable resource center for investigators.

Bacon provides diagnostic support for the laboratory animal colonies at Duke as well as research support via the Research Animal Pathology Service.

“I look forward to building on the relationships and service that my predecessor, Jeffrey Everitt, DVM, began during his tenure in this position,” said Bacon.

A North Carolina native, she graduated from North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

“During veterinary school I developed a love for research pathology,” said Bacon. She contributed to research at National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) on erythropoietin, a hormone involved in red blood cell production, and its effects on whole body metabolism in a mouse model;  and during an internship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology Division of Comparative Medicine (MIT DCM) under the direction of Dr. James Fox and others, assisted in investigating the contributions of Helicobacter spp., a bacteria that lives in the gastrointestinal tract, to the development of gastric cancer in canine and non-human primate models, similar to the relationship between Helicobacter pylori and gastric cancer in humans.

Following graduation from veterinary school, Bacon worked in private practice for several years, first as an equine sports medicine and surgery intern at Piedmont Equine Practice outside of Middleburg, Virginia, and then as an associate at a mixed animal practice, Veterinary Medical Center, in Easton, Maryland, where she worked primarily with dogs, cats, and horses, and also treated a variety of species- from sugar gliders to llamas.  

In 2018, she joined a veterinary pathology internship at Kansas State University. The position was primarily focused on education in diagnostic anatomic and clinical pathology for cases submitted to the veterinary teaching hospital and state veterinary diagnostic lab, though she had the opportunity to participate in research on porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV), a virus with significant economic impacts in US swine production; and in vaccine development for canine ehrlichiosis, a disease transmitted by brown dog ticks which can result in anemia, lameness, and neurologic symptoms.

In 2019, she joined a combined veterinary pathology/PhD program at Texas A&M University, completing her residency and earning board certification in veterinary anatomic pathology in 2022. She will graduate from the PhD program in May 2024. Her dissertation research focused on chronic enterocolitis in rhesus macaques - a widely used research resource -as a potential model for post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome (PI-IBS) in humans. A significant proportion of rhesus macaques experience this syndrome of chronic diarrhea and weight loss, which often necessitates welfare euthanasia due to their inability to maintain weight. This impacts the growth of breeding colonies and number of animals available for research. Recent investigations have suggested a link between infection by the bacteria Campylobacter and development of this disease, similar to how humans develop PI-IBS. Bacon pursued this project due to her belief in One Health. Expanding knowledge of the disease in macaques has potential to improve the welfare of animals used for research as well as provide a natural model for future investigations into an important human disease.

Bacon is very excited to become a part of the Duke research community. Please do not hesitate to reach out to her at any step of the research process for projects that may involve animal pathology, such as project design, grant preparation, or tissue evaluation.