CEEZAD researchers conducting surveillance on swine influenza viruses to support collaborative project with St. Jude Children's Hospital
Monday, Sept. 22, 2014
MANHATTAN — Scientists at Kansas State University are playing the part of detectives looking for clues to help solve mysteries in human and animal health. By using a methodology known as syndromic surveillance, researchers isolate and characterize swine influenza viruses causing disease to support a collaborative project with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
Juergen Richt and Wenjun Ma have obtained a seven-year $1,078,543 National Institutes of Health grant to fund the project "Swine Influenza Syndromic Surveillance and Research." Richt is a regents distinguished professor, Kansas Bioscience Authority eminent scholar and the director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases, or CEEZAD, at Kansas State University. Ma is an assistant professor of virology in the diagnostic medicine and pathobiology department in the university's College of Veterinary Medicine.
"We are one of the specialists in the world who can handle the swine influenza virus in a very sophisticated manner," Richt said. "We are working with the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the Abilene Animal Hospital to collect samples from diseased pig populations. Sequence analysis of these samples can provide knowledge of the genetic evolution of influenza A viruses in pigs. If the genetics are different from what was known before, then we can characterize viruses in more detail and help in the development of novel vaccines and diagnostic tests if necessary."
The project is in collaboration with Dr. Richard Webby at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, who works in its infectious diseases department. Webby is the director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds. This center is part of a larger group of institutions collectively called the Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance, which comprises facilities in New York, Maryland and Georgia. The overall goal of these centers is to provide the government with public One Health tools and strategies needed to control and lessen the impact of epidemic influenza and the increasing threat of pandemic influenza.
"St. Jude Children's Hospital is obviously a human medical institution that is interested in the zoonotic aspects of influenza virus infections," Richt said. "That's our interest too. Working with livestock at the veterinary college, we also involve our important stakeholders, which is the livestock industry in the state, because agricultural products are very important export items for our state and the nation."
CEEZAD was officially inaugurated in June 2010 and was formed to enhance the capability of the Department of Homeland Security by developing state-of-the-art countermeasures for high priority emerging and zoonotic animal diseases.