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Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases

News and Events Highlights

CEEZAD is a public source for the latest information on developments related to high-consequence foreign animal, emerging and zoonotic disease threats. 

June 15, 2018

Richt Lab members hear report on latest ASF developments in South Africa

An expert on the spread of African swine fever (ASF) in South Africa updated members of the Richt Lab on the latest research into that disease during a June 15 presentation at Kansas State University.

Dr. Armanda Bastos is a professor of veterinary microbiology and conservation genetics at the Mammal Research Institute of the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. She spoke with Richt Lab researchers following her June 12 presentation at the workshop on “Diagnostics of Endemic and Emerging Diseases: Beyond The Status Quo,” held at Kansas State University. The conference was co-sponsored by the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases (CEEZAD) and the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (KSVDC).

During her presentation, Dr. Bastos reported on research into the prevalence of ASF virus in the species of tick that is responsible for maintenance of the virus, in the northern regions of South Africa, notably the Kruger National Park (KNP) and the Mkuze Game Reserve (MGR). She said recent surveys indicate that the prevalence of ASF in Ornithodoros ticks in those regions is slightly lower in the dry season, than similar surveys conducted 20 years ago, with fewer than two percent of that species of tick in found to be carrying the virus in KNP and none in the MGR. The ticks transmit the virus to warthogs by infesting their burrows and feeding on their blood.

Based on the new research, Dr. Bastos told the Richt Lab members, several of whom are engaged in ASF research, that with the apparent disappearance of the virus from the MGR tick population that eradication may be “do-able” in small game reserves. Ongoing surveillance of infected tick populations is needed to ensure that ASF control zone policies and practices in South Africa are flexible and aligned with changing field situation.

Although statistically few of the ticks were infected, Dr. Bastos said researchers found that ASF sera prevalence among warthogs in the studied areas generally exceeded 80 percent. The ability of the ticks to infect warthogs is exacerbated by the long lifespan of the ticks, which – although not fully studied – has been estimated to be as long as 15 to 20 years.

June 13, 2018

Novel technologies focus of diagnostics conference

Key figures involved in the development of new diagnostic technologies presented the latest advancements in those areas during the “Diagnostics of Endemic and Emerging Diseases: Beyond the Status Quo” conference held June 11-13 at the Alumni Center at Kansas State University. The conference, was co-sponsored by the Center of Excellence For Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases, CEEZAD, and by the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

Seven international experts presented material during the June 13 portion of the presentations. The seven were: Dr. Doug Marthaler, associate professor at Kansas State University; Dr. Rebecca Wilkes, an associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia; Dr. Christie Mayo, assistant professor and head of the virology and sample receiving section at Colorado State University’s Diagnostic Medicine Center; Willy Valdivia, CEO of Orion Integrated Biosciences; Dr. Thomas Wang, president of GeneReach USA; Dr. Joe Russell, a senior scientist with MRI Global; and Dr. Jessie Trujillo, a senior research associate and microbiologist with the Kansas State University-based Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases.

Here is a summary of what each told the conference:

Dr. Marthaler: He discussed developments in the areas of genetics, bioinformatics, nanoparticle technology, and in situ hybridization. “Next generation sequencing (NGS) is changing diagnostics by using metagenomic and targeted approaches to identify new pathogens,” he said. That, he added, could increase both the sensitivity and specificity of NGS diagnostics.

Dr. Wilkes: She remarked on a shift toward syndromic testing using multiplex PCR and other novel multiplex NGS techniques. That, however, invites a concern about possessing too much information. “The problem with metagenomics is that you find everything in the sample, most of which will be the host.” She discussed methods of separating out what a scientist is actually looking for from the other material. Dr. Wilkes emphasized that cost-efficiency, reduction of hands-on time, and automation to reduce the potential for contamination are also important.

Dr. Mayo: She said sequencing techniques “offer enormous potential in nearly every area of agriculture,” but added that practical limitations often constrain the utility of those techniques. She said her lab is now working on a project that utilizes targeted enrichment of pathogens enabling scientists to better interpret and scale up their approach.

Valdivia: He noted that the U.S. confronts various security challenges, among them persistent, low-intensity conflict, natural infectious disease outbreaks, and the rise of non-state terrorist actors pursuing the use of biological weapons. Valdivia pointed out that there are more than 1,500 distinct infectious pathogens, and that it could take years for the intelligence community to understand the biothreat landscape and longer to develop countermeasures. His company’s focus is to introduce a unique approach integrating disparate data sources into a biodefense enterprise to support threat detection.

Wang: The president of GeneReach USA focused on his company’s efforts to develop diagnostic applications useful in aquaculture, which is a basis for much of the world’s diet. He noted that this endeavor poses numerous unique challenges, among them the water environment, in which diseases can spread rapidly, the absence of vaccine potential for certain species, the fact that quality control is hard to perform, and that there are no practical treatment protocols.  He said GeneReach is working with aquaculture-farmers on techniques “that have short turn-around time, that are easy to operate, and that are cost-effective.” He talked about the POCKITTM mobile PCR system his company developed to aid in the detection of transboundary diseases.

Russell: He discussed his involvement in efforts to develop an integrated, ultra-mobile laboratory workbench called “Mercury Lab” that can be used in field-forward molecular testing. He said the product is envisioned as enabling reproducibility, reliability and true portability for field-forward molecular biosurveillance workflows.

Trujillo: She presented the latest findings in the area of point-of-need detection of high-consequence pathogens, with a specific focus on Rift Valley Fever, FMD and ASF. Trujillo explained the use of the portable POCKITTM machine in those detection strategies, and reported on ongoing field testing in Africa. She said POCKITTM could be a tool in veterinary and public health settings as well as biodefense stockpiled to aid in surveillance and epidemiological studies.

June 12, 2018

NBAF on schedule for operational capability by December, 2022

A key administrator for the Department of Agriculture told scientists that the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility is on pace to be operational by the end of 2022.

Dr. Beth Lautner, associate deputy administrator for science, technology and analysis services for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), told participants at a June 11-13 conference co-sponsored by the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases and Kansas State’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory that she expects all APHIS operations to be out of their present Plum Island home by August of 2023.

Dr. Lautner was a keynote speaker at the “Diagnostics of Endemic and Emerging Diseases Workshop: Beyond the Status Quo” conference held at the KSU Alumni Center.

She said the NBAF will be a substantial physical upgrade from APHIS’ present facilities at Plum Island, consisting of more than 700,000 square feet overall and more than 574,000 in the main lab building. “There is much more usable space (than at Plum Island),” she said. Dr. Lautner said Plum Island, which was built in the 1950s, “is at the end of its useful life with limited capabilities.”

Dr. Lautner said it would be important to develop partnerships that “extend the work of NBAF beyond the walls of the NBAF.”

The Department of Agriculture is expected to assume control of the NBAF from the Department of Homeland Security in May of 2021, although Dr. Lautner emphasized that move awaits formal approval by Congress. APHIS is one of the major arms of the USDA that will be conducting research at the NBAF. Dr. Lautner told conference participants that “Job 1 for us” is diagnostic testing, particularly of emerging and zoonotic diseases. She said scientists are “extremely excited” to have the ability to work in a BSL4 laboratory. That level of lab security – which permits work on potentially fatal diseases that affect animals and humans for which there is no cure or treatment -- will be one of the features of the NBAF. At present, the closest such facility is in Winnipeg, Canada

Dr. Lautner said that by the time the NBAF opens, she expects APHIS to expand its staffing from the present 45 at Plum Island to 78. The USDA’s Animal Research Service, which will also occupy the NBAF, is expected to hire as many as 60 of its own scientists, with additional post-doctoral workers driving its total toward approximately 90.

She said APHIS has already embarked on a program providing study aids to qualified students who agree to work at the NBAF for a stipulated period of time. “We want individuals who want to stay here, who look at this as a career opportunity,” she said.

She said the USDA has already established several transition planning teams, and is beginning to hire personnel. She added they will soon start moving science staff here, although she acknowledged that some members of the current Plum Island staff have indicated they do not plan to make the move.

June 12, 2018

International experts discussing potential for diagnostic advances against emerging threats

Experts in the emerging aspects of molecular and serological diagnostics presented the latest advancements in those areas during the “Diagnostics of Endemic and Emerging Diseases: Beyond the Status Quo” conference held June 11-13 at the Alumni Center at Kansas State University. The conference, was co-sponsored by the Center of Excellence For Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases, CEEZAD, and by the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

Seven international experts presented material during the June 12 afternoon portion of the presentations. The seven were: Dr. Kim Dodd, director of the Foreign Animal Disease and Diagnostic Laboratory at Plum Island, N.Y.; Dr. Alfonso Clavijo, executive director of the National Centres for Animal Disease at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency; Dr. Nicholas Haley, an assistant professor at Midwestern University; Dr. Thomas Briese, associate director of the Center For Infection and Immunity at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York; Dr. Bill Wilson, a research microbiologist at the Arthropod-Borne Animal Disease Research Unit in Manhattan, Ks.; Dr. Bill Nelson, founder, chief scientist, president and CEO of Tetracore; and Dr. Armanda Bastos, a professor at the Mammal Research Institute of the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Here is a synopsis of what each discussed:

Dr. Dodd: She noted that the laboratory she heads is a national reference laboratory for USDA Veterinary Services and for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network. It is currently the only diagnostic laboratory in the U.S. in which work is allowed with specific high-consequence foreign animal diseases such as foot and mouth disease.

Dr. Clavijo: His lab has a national mandate to provide scientific services for “the rapid and accurate identification of foreign animal diseases.” He said effective detection and control of transboundary animal diseases is reliant upon accurate diagnosis of clinical cases using laboratory tests together with an understanding of factors that impact on the epidemiology of the infectious agent.  He said the future of transboundary animal disease diagnostics is embracing a strategy that takes advantage of the range of conventional and evolving technologies.

Dr. Haley: He discussed advances in diagnostics involving prions – proteinaceous infectious particles -- and limitations of those tests to detect such problems as chronic wasting disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Those limitations include the fact that testing must be post-mortem, that it is time-intensive, and that there are known shortcomings in sensitivity. He said novel prion amplification assays have shown promise in detecting very low levels of prions in various tissues and bodily fluids, although to date those tests have not been employed in diagnostic settings.

Dr. Briese: He reported on his research into serochip peptide arrays, which he said provide a unique approach to novel vaccination strategies and diagnostics. He also reported on an ongoing project that involves generating detailed information on antigens and epitopes of high-impact livestock pathogens.

Dr. Wilson: He reported on his research on the diagnostics of arthropod-borne viruses. One problem, he said, is that even after a midge acquires the virus, “you’re looking at five to six days before you can detect it.” As a consequence, he added, “we don’t even do studies until 10 to 14 days post-infection.” He emphasized that older diagnostic technologies remain useful, although new technologies “are evolving quickly.” He finds his own procedures “moving quickly” toward multiplex testing.

Dr. Nelson: His company, founded in 1998, does molecular testing, having developed numerous commercial assays. He asked whether the next diagnostic steps might involve development of a process that does not require sample extraction, thus reducing cost and time by approximately half. Dr. Nelson noted that Tetracore has already developed a set of reagents that can stand up to direct testing.

Dr. Bastos: She focused on African Swine Fever, a pathogen with potential impact on the U.S. pig industry. She noted previous outbreaks in Africa that spread to other regions of the world and took years to overcome. The problem, she said, is a global distribution of ticks, the vector, “and if they are near pigs they become very efficient hosts.” Although ASF prevalence in ticks is less than 1 percent, she said maintenance is high.

June 12, 2018

Progress reported in molecular and serological diagnostics

Experts in the field of molecular and serological diagnostics presented the latest advancements in those areas during the “Diagnostics of Endemic and Emerging Diseases: Beyond the Status Quo” conference held June 11-13 at the Alumni Center at Kansas State University. The conference, was co-sponsored by the Center of Excellence For Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases, CEEZAD, and by the Kansas State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

The session involved five speakers from academic and commercial entities involved in molecular and serological diagnostics. They were Dr. Sabrina Swenson, director of the Diagnostic Virology Laboratory at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the USDA at Ames, Ia.; Dr. Dick Hesse, professor and director of diagnostic virology at Kansas State University; Dr. Gregg Hanzlicek, assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University; Dr. Udeni Balasuriya, professor in the Department of Veterinary Science at the Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky; and Dr. Jim Rhoades, senior marketing manager for IDEXX Laboratories Inc.

Here are brief synopses of what each reported.

Dr. Swenson: She said that diagnosis of disease in domestic animals requires an understanding of expected clinical signs, shedding patterns of the infectious agent, and the immune response to the infectious agent. Timing of diagnostic sample collection, age of animal and vaccination status are also important. Maternal antibodies detected in the serum of the offspring can confuse the interpretation of test results. She said most vaccines produced in the U.S. result in the production of antibodies in an animal that can’t be differentiated from antibodies resulting from exposure to the infectious agent.

Dr. Hesse: He discussed a selection of diagnostic cases, findings and subsequent research activities. He also categorized what he referred to as “the four tools of diagnostics” – pathology, virology, serology and molecular analysis. In any investigation, Hesse said, “we want to know what is the frequency of this pathogen in the field?” He also told attendees that “if you can understand pathogen biology, you can devise tools to help understand what’s going on in the field “

Dr. Hanzlicek: He focused on Johne’s Disease, a disease of cattle responsible for an estimated $250 million damage to the dairy industry alone. He said numerous articles have been published suggesting that the organism that might be responsible for Johne’s Disease, MAP, might be zoonotic, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans.  He also noted that field testing for Johne’s Disease  is complicated depending on the type, what is being tested for and why?

Dr. Balasuriya: He discussed threats to the $122 billion equine industry in the U.S., involving a horse population estimated at 7.2 million. The threat of pathogenic incidence is made more complex, he noted, by the fact that horses “are globetrotters of the 21st century,” being shipped around the world for racing, breeding, work and other purposes. He said that although the classical assays are still very good, their utility is constrained by expense, laboriousness, extended time for results, and low-sensitivity.

Dr. Rhoades: He discussed the impact of disease on bovine herds, noting that data suggests about one-quarter of pregnancies are not carried to term. That is a key factor in disease-related economic losses to the cattle industry estimated at between $555 and $2,333 per animal. Rhoades reminded participants that “a non-pregnant cow is a pet.”

June 11, 2018

The importance of accurate necropsy procedures and diagnostics

Accurate diagnostics provide a key to analysis of the spread of infectious diseases, participants at a conference co-sponsored by the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases were told June 11.

The presentation, by Dr. Brad Njaa, an anatomic pathologist at Kansas State University, took place during the opening session of “Diagnostics of Endemic and Emerging Diseases: Beyond the Status Quo,” at the Alumni Center at Kansas State. The conference, which is co-sponsored by CEEZAD and by the Kansas State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, was held June 11-13.

Dr. Njaa told participants at the conference that a thorough and systematic necropsy examination is a critical part of the diagnostic process as it involves recognizing and confirming endemic or emerging diseases. “This is how we’re going to find the next emerging disease, by doing necropsies and by  doing them right and asking, ‘what’s going on here?’” he said. Dr. Njaa reminded attendees that “we as pathologists may be the first people to discover emerging diseases.”

Most of Dr. Njaa’s presentation involved videos of appropriate necropsy and sampling techniques on various types of animals.

June 11, 2018

The future of diagnostics

Improvements in sequencing, telemedicine and virus isolation are likely to drive diagnostic improvements in coming years, a noted veterinary diagnostician believes.

Dr. Jamie Henningson, interim director of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Kansas State University, told participants June 11 at a conference co-sponsored by the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases and Kansas State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory that those areas and others were likely techniques for advancement of the diagnostic science.

Dr. Henningson teamed with Dr. Jerome Nietfeld, an emeritus professor at K-State, to update attendees on the past, present and future of the diagnostics of endemic and emerging diseases. She cited several areas where advancements are likely to take place, among them:

Genetic sequencing: “We’re already seeing sequencing move forward” leaps, faster and cheaper.

Enhancements to polymerase chain reactions. Known as PCR, these are laboratory techniques used to make many copies of a segment of DNA or RNA. They can provide test results in shorter periods of time with enhanced accuracy. “A lot of our PCR (equipment) are going to (soon) fit in the palm of our hand,” she said, an adaption that will enhance portability and thus ease of use. She noted that PCR has already largely replaced other diagnostic techniques for some pathogens, and due to both cost and ease of use it is replacing more expensive electron microscope usage.

Point-of-care and telemedicine. She noted that telemedicine diagnostics are already being offered “by many hospitals” to serve rural and under-served areas.

Dr. Nietfeld described the history of diagnostic practices dating back thousands of years. “We know that by 2000 BC, the Egyptians were recording clinical signs to learn why people died,” he said. The big breakthroughs, though, came in the 19th Century when scientists such as Pasteur, Lister and Koch brought germ theory into common acceptance, demonstrating the role of organisms in disease production and transmission. Vaccination also came in at about the same time. 

May 30, 2018

CEEZAD deputy director co-authors article on Dengue Fever

The deputy director of the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) is corresponding author of a recently published article on Dengue Fever.

The article, for which CEEZAD’s Dr. Jean Paul Gonzalez was lead author, was published in the May 12 edition of the Journal of Fever of SciMedCentral. It looks at a 2011 outbreak of Dengue Fever in Thailand. The article focuses on the genetic variability and diversity of the Dengue virus as a major driver to develop an efficient, worldwide-needed, Dengue virus multivalent vaccine.

CEEZAD, an emeritus Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, is based at Kansas State University. It focuses on the study of emerging and zoonotic diseases with an emphasis on improving diagnostic techniques and development of safe, efficacious vaccines.

Dengue Fever, a mosquito-borne tropical viral disease, has been around for centuries, but its spread has accelerated since World War II to the point where it has now been identified in more than 100 nations worldwide. In the article, the authors note that the virus is particularly problematic for researchers due to its extreme genetic diversity. The researchers said they found that cycles within its mosquito vector also play “an important role” in that genetic diversity. Using the epitope predicting method across all four variants, they identified seventeen epitopes exhibiting an amino acid substitution due to a non-synonymous mutation. One of the variants showed two epitope sites in the NS5 gene: one of the methyltransferase domains and the other of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase domain containing a predicted single amino acid antigenic substitution change in a critical site that could contribute to the generation of antigenic variants.

They concluded that the findings “support our data that DENV-4 potentially exhibits a high rate of genetic diversity within an outbreak, conferring to DENV-4 a high potential for host and environmental adaptability that could potentiate the development of resistance to vaccines and/or antiviral drugs.”

Co-authors with Dr. Gonzalez were:

Narone Nitatpattana, Supaporn Wacharapluesadee, Thiravat Hemachudha, and Yutthana Joyjinda, all of the Molecular Biology Laboratory for Neurological Diseases at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand.

Yves Mone and Franciscvo Veas, both of the Molecular Comparative Immuno-Physiopathology Lab-UMR-Ministry of Defense in Thailand.

Meriadeg AR Gouilh of and Environmental and Infectious Risks Research Unit at the Institut Pasteur in France.

Kumchoi Chaiyo, Sutee Yoksan and and Supoth Ratchakum, all of the Institute of Molecular Biosciences at Mahidol University in Thailand.

Tom Vincent, O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University.

The article can be accessed at: J SciMed Central

April 13, 2018

CEEZAD deputy director co-authors paper updating taxonomy of Arenaviridae family

CEEZAD’s deputy director is co-author of a soon-to-be published paper on the taxonomy of a virus that infects rodents, humans and snakes.

The article, titled “Taxonomy of the family Arenaviridae and the order Bunyavirales: update 2018,” was co-written by CEEZAD’s Dr. Jean Paul Gonzalez as a member of the Arenaviridae Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The article has been accepted for publication in an upcoming edition of the Archives of Virology. The article will be available online in the near future.

“This article really changes the taxonomy of these two groups of viruses,” Dr. Gonzalez said.

In 2018 the family Arenaviridae was expanded to include a new genus and five novel species. At the same time the recently established order Bunyavirales was expanded by three species. The article presented the updated taxonomy of both the family and order as now accepted by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. It also summarizes additional taxonomic proposals that may affect the order in the near future.

In particular, the genus Arenavirus was re-named Mammarenavirus, and a second genus, Reptarenavirus, was established in 2014 for several of the newly discovered snake viruses. A non-Linnean binomial species nomenclature was adopted for the entire family Arenaviridae. Since then, the genus Mammarenavirus has been extended by eight species for novel murid viruses discovered in Africa and Asia.

April 10, 2018

CEEZAD Team’s Rift Valley Fever Virus Vaccine Receives Federal Patent

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Work conducted at the Department of Homeland Security  Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) located at Kansas State University in the College of Veterinary Medicine resulted in a patent for a subunit vaccine to be used against Rift Valley Fever Virus.

The U.S. Patent Office granted Patent No. 9,791,445 B2 to Dr. Juergen Richt, Dr. Bonto Faburay and Dr. William Wilson. Dr. Richt is the Director of CEEZAD and the Regents Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University. Dr. Faburay is a Research Associate Professor at Kansas State  University within the Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University. Dr. Wilson is a Microbiologist with the Federal Arthropod-Borne Animal Disease Research Unit based in Manhattan, KS.

The patent covers the development of subunit vaccines containing Gn and Gc glycoproteins of the Rift Valley Fever Virus, including nucleic acids encoding such glycoproteins, host cells, vectors and immunoreagents generated with the glycoproteins.  It also covers methods of vaccination, methods of diagnosis and associated kits.

In recognition of the awarding of the patent, officials at Kansas State University, a member institution of the National Academy of Inventors, recently inducted Dr. Richt and Dr. Faburay as members of the Academy.

April 10, 2018

CEEZAD Conducts Symposium on EHDV

Experts in the fight against one of the leading killers of North American white-tailed deer participated in a CEEZAD-sponsored mini-symposium March 30, designed to gauge progress against the virus responsible for a disease with an extensive impact on the deer farming industry.

The virus, known as Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease Virus or EHDV, is a significant threat to the American white-tailed deer industry, whose value for the US has been estimated as high as $7.9 billion. EHDV outbreaks have been reported across all but few northern-most sections of the United States.

The symposium, held at the Mara Conference Center in Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, involved experts from the industry along with academics and governmental researchers working on development of mitigation strategies including potential vaccines against EHD.

A team led by Dr. Juergen Richt, CEEZAD’s Director and The Regents Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University, organized the conference.

EHDV Symposium
Top Row: [Left] Mr. Shawn Schafer, Dr. David Stallknecht, Dr. Juergen Richt, Dr. Jim MacLachlan; Bottom Row:  [Left] Dr. Samantha Wisely, Dr. William Wilson, Dr. Barbara Drolet

Shawn Schafer, executive director of the North American Deer Farmer Association, delivered a summary of the direct and indirect economic impact of EHDV in the United States. He also asserted that EHDV “affects the agriculture industry altogether,” rather than merely the white-tailed deer industry since cattle, big horn sheep and other wild and domestic ungulates have also been known to become infected.

Historically, Schafer said, major outbreaks sometimes occur in multi-year cycles. He also noted that there has not been a significant outbreak for several years, but added he did not know why that was the case. “Maybe we’re getting better at control, maybe our animals built up their immunity (disease-resistance).” He added, however, that immunities wear off across generations, asking “how long before we’re hit again?” The EHDV is transmitted to deer by culicoides midges, tiny insects that are carried by winds and that feed off an animal’s blood. When they feed, they deliver the virus. In 2015, EHDV virus was isolated from 19 states encompassing five species of deer.

Dr. Samantha Wisely, who oversees the Cervidae Health Research Initiative (CHeRI) in Florida, reported that between 33 and 60 percent of cases her laboratory receives are either EHDV or Bluetongue, a related disease. She added that even when EHDV isn’t the prime mortality factor, it is often contributory.

Dr. David Stallknecht, a professor at the University of Georgia, said the disease (i.e. the culicoides vectors) appears to be taking advantage of a warming climate to spread itself northward. He noted that in the 1980s, the virus’ northern boundary was approximately the 41st parallel, whereas today that boundary is about the 43rd parallel. “When it hits a new spot, it seems to stay…it establishes,” he said. He said drought also appears to be a contributing factor, the virus possibly flourishing during times when host animals are under greater stress and gathering in large group at water wells.

Dr. Barbara Drolet, a research microbiologist at the Manhattan-based Arthropod-Borne Animal Disease Research Unit (ABADRU), described the dynamics of EHDV infection in its vector, Culicoides sonorensis. She could elegantly show that the virus disseminates from the midges to others tissues, and is present by day 5 post feeding in the hemolymph; most likely the midges are able to transmit EHDV five days after an infective blood meal.

Dr. William Wilson, also a research microbiologist with ABADRU, told attendees of progress his lab in collaboration with CEEZAD researchers is making toward development of a vaccine for EHDV. Although vaccines against EHDV have been developed, they are not widely used due to flaws. Wilson said his goal is to develop a vaccine that is safe, easily scalable, and that allows for differentiation between infected and vaccinated animals.  He also wants it to be flexible so that “if the strain (of virus) changes, it could be adapted”.  He is using baculovirus-expressed subunit vaccines, which showed immunogenicity in mice, cattle and deer and efficacy in deer, and he is close to his goals. One significant remaining step, he said, is for the conduct of duration-of-immunity studies on the ABADRU/KSU vaccine. Schafer said that duration question is a large one for deer farmers and breeders.

The Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) is a Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence based at Kansas State University dedicated to the study, containment and prevention of emerging and zoonotic transboundary diseases. This symposium was supported through funding received from the Kansas Department of Commerce, formerly the Kansas Bioscience Authority under the Federal Matching Program Grant Agreement.  The views and conclusions presented are those of the presenters and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies, either expressed or implied, of the Kansas Department of Commerce-Kansas Bioscience Authority.

April 6, 2018

CEEZAD deputy director co-authors paper on history and status of Ebola

CEEZAD’s deputy director is co-author of a recently published paper on recent developments in the effort to contain the Ebola virus.

The article, titled “Revisiting Ebola, a quiet river in the heart of Africa,” was co-written by CEEZAD’s Dr. Jean Paul Gonzalez with Nadia Wauquier of MRI Global in Dakar, Senegal, and Tom Vincent of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown. It was published in the December 2017 edition of Medecine et Sante Tropicales.

Dr. Gonzalez and his team persistently followed up the natural history of the Ebola Virus from its inception in Central Africa from the Pasteur Institute of Bangui in the Central African Republic, to the late 1970s Ebola Virus Disease emergence and spread in West Africa in 2014.

In the paper’s abstract, the researchers note that Dr. Gonzalez first questioned progress in the effort to contain Ebola more than three decades ago. They conclude that in the intervening period, infrastructure improvements have been made. But they also note that the global reach of the virus has increased, and that broadened presence has not translated into marginal increases in preparedness necessary to slow the virus’s progress. In other words, they express their concern, pointing out that “we do not seem to be learning from our mistakes.” and, the elusive Ebolavirus needs to be tirelessly tracked.

The article can be accessed at: Médecine et Santé Tropicales


March 28, 2018

Visiting researcher tackling problem of African horse sickness

Jim Maclachlan

African horse sickness is a highly infectious and deadly disease of horses. Although contained for the present to sub-Saharan Africa, its virulence, track record and the ease with it is transmitted makes it a potentially serious threat to the horse population in much of the world. That’s why Dr. James MacLachlan devotes much of his professional energy to combatting it.

Dr. Maclachlan is an emeritus distinguished professor of pathology, microbiology and immunology at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California-Davis. He is also a member of the advisory board of the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD), and was visiting CEEZAD offices in March as a participant of the EHDV symposium with Dr. Juergen Richt, CEEZAD’s director.

African horse sickness is one of several transboundary diseases that are the focus of Dr. Maclachlan’s research. Although presently restricted to sub-Saharan Africa, scientists do not presume that geographic limitation will continue, particularly since it has previously encroached in Europe and elsewhere. The last outbreak outside Africa was in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) in the 1980s.

Governments and scientists use a system of tight border controls in an effort to prevent African horse sickness from spreading. The problem is those controls only work on the horses themselves; the various species of midges that actually transmit the disease aren’t subjected to border checks. And midges can move great distances when they are carried by wind currents. Compound that with climatic changes that make it easier for midges to serve as disease vectors in a broader geographic range and the challenge becomes obvious.

“Midges are sometimes referred to aerial plankton,” Dr. Maclachlan said. “They ride the wind currents.”

African horse sickness is an old disease, first recognized in the 14th Century in Yemen. Although there Is no cure for an infected horse, a vaccine has been developed and has been used for many decades in the affected areas of Africa.  Maclachlan is among scientists and researchers who have worked closely with Merial, a commercial manufacturer, to produce a different vaccine that does not rely on live attenuated virus, meaning it could be used in a crisis elsewhere in the world. Since the vaccine in use in Africa is live attenuated, “we would not use it outside sub-Saharan Africa,” Maclachlan said. The problem with the vaccine under development is marketability: since the disease does not presently exist outside of Africa, manufacturers have little incentive to produce it. “If you make a new generation of vaccine, what are you making it for…who’s going to want it until there is a crisis?” Maclachlan asked.

March 16, 2018

CEEZAD deputy director co-authors paper on Leishmaniosis in Libya

CEEZAD’s deputy director is co-author of a recently published paper on the threat caused by Leishmaniasis in Libya.

The article, titled “Natural Infection of Phlebotomus sergenti by Leishmania tropica in Libya,” was co-written by CEEZAD’s Dr. Jean Paul Gonzalez with Mostafa Dokhan of the University of Sabratha, Libya, Osama Zenbil of the Libyan National Center for Disease Control, Kaouther Jaouadi, Sadok Salem, and Afif Ben Salah, all of the Pasteur Institute in Tunis, and Badreddin Annajar of the University of Tripoli, Libya. It was published in the March 2018 edition of the American Journal of Tropical Medical Hygiene.

In the paper’s abstract, the researchers report on their screening of sandflies for Leishmania DNA, leishmaniasis being a significant public health concern in Libya.

The article can be accessed at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29532769

March 16, 2018

CEEZAD deputy director co-authors paper on arbovirus threat

A research paper co-written by the deputy director of the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases has recently been published.

The paper, titled “Arbovirus Discovery in Central African Republic (1973-1993)” was co-authored by Dr. Jean Paul Gonzalez of CEEZAD along with Jean-Francois Saluzzo of Fab’entech in France, Tom Vincent of the Georgetown University Law Center, Jay Miller of Health Security Partners and Francisco Veas of Laboratoire d’Immunophysiopathologie Moleculaire Comparee in France. It was published in the Nov. 2017 edition of the Annals of Infectious Disease and Epidemiology.

It found that a significant number of yet-unidentified viruses represent a constant and undetermined risk of emergency among a non-immune human population.

The article can be accessed at: http://remedypublications.com/infectious-disease-and-epidemiology/articles/pdfs_folder/aide-v2-id1022.pdf)

March 6, 2018

Deputy CEEZAD head co-authors new paper on brucellosis

The deputy director of the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases is co-author of a recently published paper on brucellosis.

The article by CEEZAD’s Dr. Jean Paul Gonzalez and three other co-authors was published in the March 2018 edition of BMC Public Health, a publication of BioMed Central. It is titled, “Assessing short evolution brucellosis in a highly Brucella endemic cattle keeping population of Western Uganda: a complementary use of Rose Bengal test and IgM rapid diagnostic test.”

Co-authors with Dr. Gonzalez are Arnold Ezama, one of Dr. Gonzalez former trainees of the Uganda Ministry of Health project on “Biosurveillance and Outbreak Response” (2014), sponsored by the Cooperative Biological Engagement Program (CBEP) of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), of the Office of the District Veterinary Officer in Sheema, Uganda; Samuel Majalija, of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda; and Francis Bajunirwe, of the Faculty of Medicine at Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Mbarara, Uganda.

The study, using simple, low cost, and straightforward methods, demonstrated an increased prevalence of short evolution brucellosis (i.e. active transmission) cases among cattle keeping household members of Western Uganda as compared with previous similar studies. The full paper can be read at http://rdcu.be/Io9E

February 12, 2018

Two Selected for Orion, CEEZAD Internship Project


Two students have been selected to take part in a Biodefense Internship Program working with Orion Integrated Biosciences and supported by the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD).


The students are Alice Lam, an engineering student at Kansas State University, and Chester McDowell, a veterinary student in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State.

Alice Lam and Chester McDowell

Willy Valdivia, CEO of Orion integrated Biosciences, said the internship program will focus on the development of an analytical tool capable of combining different text and data mining tools used in the research of emerging and zoonotic disease threats. The idea is to improve near-real time situational awareness of abnormal and imminent biological threats coupled with risk-based analytics.


“This approach has great potential for advancing the students’ understanding of how to make our vastly expanding knowledge base more readily available to researchers and scientists,” he said.


Lam previously completed an internship involving the development of a classifier that predicts when patients with existing aorta aneurysms should be checked.  She said the integration of such fields with computer science has always been a personal passion. “As I experience more of real-life problems, I begin to understand why I enjoy my work so much,” she said. She wants to use this internship to learn more about bio-surveillance and bio-informatics. “This program will help me advance my professional software developer skills and also the background I need for my future career,” she said.

February 1, 2018

CEEZAD hosting aquaculture expert for presentation & discussion


Dr. Paola Andrea Barato, an expert in aquaculture pathology will discuss her recent research with Dr. Juergen Richt’s lab and others on Friday, February 2, 2018.

She will speak on, “Emerging Infectious Diseases in Freshwater Fish (tilapia and trout) at 1:30 p.m. Friday in Mosier Hall, Room P223.  Those interested are invited to attend.

Dr. Barato earned her PhD in biotechnology and her DVM from Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogota. She also has a specialization in aquaculture from the Aquaculture Institute of Llanos.

Her current research focuses on design, chemical synthesis and characterization of peptides derived from lactoferricin and evaluation of its anti-cancer activity.

Her appearance is sponsored by the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University.

January 12, 2018

CEEZAD’s Deputy Director at Annual KVMA Conference

Jean-Paul Gonzalez at KVMA

The deputy director of the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) attended the annual convention of the Kansas Veterinary Medicine Association held Jan. 11-13 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Manhattan.

Dr. Jean Paul Gonzalez focused his exchanges on acquainting veterinarian practitioners  in attendance with CEEZAD’s role in developing state-of-the-art countermeasures to combat emerging transboundary and zoonotic threats to the nation’s food supply. CEEZAD is an emeritus Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence headquartered at Kansas State University in Manhattan with a broad mission of developing research in order protect US animals and animal products.

Participants were made aware of CEEZAD’s expertise in vaccine development, testing and validation; in diagnostic technology development; in combatting such transboundary animal diseases as African swine fever and classical swine fever; and in fighting zoonotic diseases such as Rift Valley fever virus and highly pathogenic avian influenza virus.

Dr. Gonzalez also gave attention to questions of students from KSU and KU, and visited state-of-the-art technologies presented by different Kansas based companies, on new product and strategies to improve animal health and agriculture in the US.

Veterinarians from around the state took part in the conference, which also featured a trade show, networking and presentations on the latest developments in the field of veterinary medicine.