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Kansas State University
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Manhattan, KS 66506
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Sources: Maureen Kerrigan, 785-532-4421, rider@k-state.edu;
and Bob Rowland, 785-532-4631, rrowland@k-state.edu
Pronouncer: Otradovec is oh-trah-doh-vick
Photos available. Contact media@k-state.edu or 785-532-6415.
Video available. Access at http://www.k-state.edu/media/webzine/research/index.html
News release prepared by: Kristin Hodges, 785-532-6415, khodges2@k-state.edu

Monday, Aug. 17, 2009

K-STATE STUDENTS STUDY THE MECHANISMS INVOLVED IN TWO INFECTIOUS SWINE DISEASES

MANHATTAN -- Students at Kansas State University are researching some of the most important infectious diseases in swine to improve the long-term health of pigs.

The K-State students are working in the laboratory of Bob Rowland, K-State professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology. Rowland's research focuses on swine virology and studying the inner workings of the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus and porcine circovirus type 2 virus.

Nicholas Crossland, first-year student in veterinary medicine and graduate student in veterinary biomedical sciences, Overland Park, and Jessica Otradovec, sophomore in animal science and pre-veterinary medicine, Palmyra, Neb., are conducting research this summer in Rowland's lab.

Maureen Kerrigan, Rowland's laboratory manager, said the students have been collecting samples to compare health factors and genetic profiles of swine.

"The big picture here is to improve swine health long-term through vaccination or by understanding which pigs genetically are more resistant to viruses without having to vaccinate them," Kerrigan said.

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus is a highly infectious disease that causes a flu-like condition with high fever, loss of appetite and an overall deterioration of health. Porcine circovirus is a disease that compromises a pig's immune system with clinical signs like skin rashes, jaundice, fever, diarrhea, poor growth, weight loss and death.

Kerrigan said the lab research involves work with swine genetics and virus proteins. The researchers are looking at how the proteins differ in infected and noninfected swine to help understand if certain proteins can be used for protection from the viruses.

Crossland worked in Rowland's lab as an undergraduate student in preparation for applying to K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine. He is running enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, a procedure in which he mixes swine sera with bacterial expressed viral proteins to see how they interact. Kerrigan said this will show if a pig has been exposed to the protein.

Otradovec started working in the lab as a freshman and had no prior experience in research or swine health. She is learning a variety of cloning techniques.

"I want to go to vet school, so working in a lab and learning to do all these procedures will help me immensely, even in the classroom," Otradovec said.

Crossland and Otradovec started working in the lab after they heard about the job opening through a pre-veterinary medicine club listserv. Crossland said Rowland and Kerrigan allow the students in the lab to work on their own with applicable research.

"It's not about being a robot in a lab and reproducing a protocol," Crossland said. "It's about thinking critically and producing something that's useful."

Kerrigan said the lab has had an increase in student help during the last year for the research. She said about five undergraduates will be doing research this fall.

Rowland is continuing swine health research at K-State's Biosecurity Research Institute. Beth Montelone, interim director of the institute, said the facility's first animal health study starts this month. Rowland and Dick Hesse, K-State director of diagnostic virology, will conduct experiments on swine virus vaccination.

"As we begin to move forward with additional projects, we anticipate that there will be opportunities for veterinary, graduate and undergraduate students to take part in these projects," Montelone said.

The Biosecurity Research Institute is a biocontainment research and education facility at K-State's Pat Roberts Hall. It is designed for biosafety level 3 and biosafety level 3 agriculture research, which includes work on diseases caused by high-consequence pathogens and the development of vaccines for dangerous animal diseases.

The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility coming to Manhattan also will have biosafety level 3 capabilities where scientists will conduct animal and zoonotic disease research. Additionally it will have biosafety levels 2 and 4 capabilities.