The Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) at Kansas State University was established in 2010 to help protect the nation’s agricultural and public health sectors against high-consequence foreign animal, emerging and zoonotic disease threats. CEEZAD has four principal missions:
- Development of novel, safe, efficacious and DIVA-compatible vaccines for prevention and control of high-impact emerging and zoonotic diseases that can be manufactured in the U.S.
- Development and expansion of technologies and platforms for laboratory and point-of-need pathogen detection.
- Development of models to predict high-consequence disease behavior in the U.S. to aid prevention or outbreak control.
- Development of education and training programs for students, veterinarians, first responders and researchers in high-impact animal diseases and animal emergencies.
CEEZAD scientists take on a significant national security threat
When people think of threats to the nation’s security, those thoughts generally involve mass-casualty scenarios.
Yet one potential significant national security threat could involve natural or intentional introduction of a virus that can’t take a single human life. It could, however, devastate one of the most important segments of the nation’s food industry.
Scientists at the Kansas State University-based Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases are researching methods to ensure that never happens.
The threat is from African Swine Fever (ASF), a disease that is endemic in swine populations in various parts of the world, including Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia. In 2018 the disease was for the first time discovered in China, the world’s largest pork producing nation.
"Within 12 years of the virus emerging in the Republic of Georgia, African swine fever has spread throughout most of Eastern Europe and across the entire continent of Asia into China, Vietnam, Laos, North Korea and Cambodia," said Daniel Madden, a graduate research assistant with the CEEZAD-affiliated Richt Lab who researches the virus. "It is very likely that future outbreaks will occur in areas that have never seen this disease before; and we must be prepared."
Although ASF cannot be passed to humans, the economic implications for swine industries in nations where the disease has been found have been substantial. And given the widespread use of pigs as a source of food, medicines and financial investment, implications for the economy of any nation where ASF is introduced can also be significant.
Dr. Juergen Richt, CEEZAD’s director and a widely respected researcher on the topic of ASF, noted that wholesale pork prices in China are already 20 percent higher than they were a year ago, before ASF was discovered in that country.
With specific respect to the U.S. food industry, the concern is two-fold: that ASF could be introduced inadvertently, or that it could be introduced deliberately. Obviously, American Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel are alert to the threat and take measures to prevent the introduction of ASF here. High biosecurity standards are in place at the nation’s land borders, ports and airports, designed to minimize the threat of either accidental or deliberate introduction of this dangerous viral agent.
Clearly, it’s asking a lot of our CBP personnel to ensure against the introduction of something as small as a virus. Dr. Richt characterized the risk of further spread of the virus into currently unaffected areas as high, mainly through movement of contaminated pork, pork products, infected pigs and wild boar, or through contaminated vehicles, fomites, or feed.
There is no commercially available vaccine, in part due to the complex nature of the virus. Development of such a vaccine is one focus of work at CEEZAD. Those same researchers are also developing rapid diagnostic tests that could detect viral antigens, antibodies or DNA to the virus so if the disease does show up in the U.S., it can be identified quickly and hopefully stopped before it spreads widely.
June 17, 2019
Ten Talented Students Successfully Complete CEEZAD’s BSL-3 Summer Training Program
CEEZAD’s recently concluded Summer Training Program gave 10 promising students a chance to explore the full range of professional opportunities available to them as they progress along their career paths. The program provided students with hands-on experience in high-containment laboratory situations and acquainted them with recent developments in the field of veterinary infectious disease studies.
The BSL-3 Summer Training Program is an annual exercise in which CEEZAD gathers experts in the fields of biosecurity, virology, pathobiology and related fields in order to educate promising students who are interested or already involved in veterinary research in those fields.
Most of the program takes place at the Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI) at Kansas State University. This included one week of training at the BRI into procedures that are used to ensure safety in a BSL3 environment. Additionally, the program featured visits to various industry, business and educational sites within the Greater Kansas City Animal Health Corridor. Participants visited four Kansas City area firms involved in various aspects of the veterinary health industry: Midwest Research Institute (MRI Global), Bayer Animal Health, Citoxlab, and Merck Animal Health.
The participants, most of them DVM/PhD students, are involved in the study of various infectious diseases. Their names, schools and current majors are:
Sean Stapleton, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, DVM student; Katelyn Haydett, Michigan State University, DVM student; Megan Toms, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, DVM/MPH student; Jonathan Teeple, Michigan State University, DVM/MPH student; Dana Stewart, Michigan State University DVM/MPH student; Grayson Walker, North Carolina State University, DVM/PHD student; Madeline Butterfield, University of South Dakota, Kansas State University DVM student; Andrea Ayala, University of Georgia, PhD student in comparative biomedical sciences; Elsa Sanabria, North Carolina State University, DVM/MPH student; Sarah Murray, Texas A&M, PhD student.
At the end of this year’s session, the students said the two-week experience broadened their awareness of the numerous career opportunities available to them. In several cases, the program also deepened or clarified their interest in particular aspects of veterinary research. “It showed me a lot of different pathways – research, industry, biodefense,” remarked Megan Toms.
Katelyn Haydett said the experience opened her eyes to the wide range of ways in which veterinary research is conducted. “I see that you can go into the government sector, the private sector, or the academic sector,” she said.
The program concluded with two days of presentations by some of the world’s leading researchers into veterinary health. The presenters included Dr. Koos Coetzer of the University of Pretoria, South Africa; Dr. Greg Gray of Duke University; Dr. Cyril Gay of the US Department of Agriculture; Dr. Alonso Clavijo of the National Centre for Animal Diseases in Canada; Dr. Anton Gerilovych of the Institute for Experimental and Clinical Veterinary Medicine in Ukraine; and Dr. Young Lyoo of Konkuk University in South Korea.
Dana Stewart was among those placing particular value on her exposure to BSL3 training requirements. “Coming in I had no experience with any of the BSL levels,” she said. “I got a hands-on opportunity to work in that kind of environment.” Madeline Butterfield, who is beginning her veterinary medicine studies at Kansas State this fall, said the workshop gave her “insight into what science careers look like.”