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 a 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.
November 17, 2022
CEEZAD receives grant to aid USDA research into foreign animal diseases
The Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (www.ceezad.org) has received a $450,000 two-year grant to support U.S. Department of Agriculture research into foreign animal diseases.
The USDA study, titled “Understanding Pathogenesis and Epidemiology for Controlling Foreign Animal Diseases,” will be conducted by that organization and CEEZAD in collaboration with research taking place at Plum Island.
Foreign Animal Diseases (FAD), including Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus (FMDV), African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV), Classical Swine Fever Virus (CSFV) and zoonotic / exotic strains of Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV), pose a severe economic threat to the U.S. livestock industry. Current control capabilities are limited due to less-than-ideal vaccines or gaps in knowledge regarding the virus- host interactions and disease ecology.
In particular, there is insufficient understanding of the immunological mechanisms mediating response to infection or vaccination of these FADs in livestock species. In addition to vaccination, other countermeasure strategies require knowledge of virus ecology and disease epidemiology, particularly for vector borne diseases, such as VSV.
The CEEZAD-USDA research project will study virus-host interactions and apply this knowledge to enhance vaccine effectiveness and develop vaccines to provide better protection against FAD.
November 17, 2022
CEEZAD receives grant from Missouri to support five-year study on controlling swine flu
The Center of Excellence for emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (www.ceezad.org) has received a five-year, $639,372 grant to study protection of pigs from swine flu.
The grant was awarded to CEEZAD by the NIH in collaboration with the University of Missouri.
Its specific purpose is to support research into the ability of genetically modified pigs to model NKT cell immunity to influenza virus infection
Dr. Juergen A. Richt, Regents and University Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University and director of CEEZAD and CEZID, will oversee experiments designed to determine whether NKT cells contribute to modified live virus vaccine-mediated immunity and vaccine associated enhanced respiratory disease (VAERD).
Dr. Richt’s laboratory is ideally positioned to perform these studies as they are based on an experimental design that his group previously developed to sensitively quantify vaccine-mediated heterologous and heterosubtypic immune responses.
November 17, 2022
CEEZAD receives grant to assist study of disease mitigation strategies in Kenya
The Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zonotic Animal Diseases (www.ceezad.org) has received a two-year, $445,349 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Ag Research Service to evaluate transboundary disease mitigation strategies in Kenya.
Working in collaboration with USDA, CEEZAD researchers at K-State will assist collaborators in Kenya in the evaluation of new tools developed for early detection and surveillance of arboviruses.
November 17, 2022
CEEZAD grant to support DARPA research
The Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) has received a $180,596 grant to support research by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The thrust of the research is to perform swine animal studies to test the immunogenicity of influenza-specific DNA vaccines.
November 4, 2022
Study finds ancestral lineage of SARS-CoV-2 is more stable in human biological fluids than Alpha, Beta and Omicron variants of concern
A recently published study co-authored by the Director of the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (www.ceezad.org) and the Center on Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (CEZID; https://www.k-state.edu/cezid/) finds that the ancestral lineage of the SARS-CoV2 virus is more stable in human bioological fluids than the variants of cancer (VOCs) that have recently surfaced.
The study was co-authored by Dr. Juergen A. Richt, Regents and University Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University and director of CEEZAD and CEZID. The article was published in the August edition of bioRxiv.
SARS-CoV-2 is a zoonotic virus which was first identified in 2019, and has quickly spread worldwide. The virus is primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets from infected persons; however, the virus-laden excretions can contaminate surfaces which can serve as a potential source of infection.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2 has continued to evolve and accumulate mutations throughout its genome leading to the emergence of variants of concern (VOCs) which exhibit increased fitness, transmissibility, and/or virulence. However, the stability of SARS-CoV-2 VOCs in biological fluids has not been thoroughly investigated so far.
The aim of this study was to determine and compare the stability of different SARS-CoV-2 strains in human biological fluids. In the manuscript, the researchers demonstrate that the ancestral strain of Wuhan-like lineage A was more stable than the Alpha VOC B.1.1.7, and the Beta VOC B.1.351 strains in human liquid nasal mucus and sputum. In contrast, there was no difference in stability among the three strains in dried biological fluids.
The research team also shows that the Omicron VOC B.1.1.529 strain was less stable than the ancestral Wuhan-like strain in liquid nasal mucus. In summary, these studies provide insight into the effect of the molecular evolution of SARS-CoV-2 on environmental virus stability, which is important information for the development of countermeasures against SARS-CoV-2.
Other co-authors of the study include Taeyong Kwon, Natasha N. Gaudreault, David A. Meekins, Chester D. McDowell and Konner Cool, all of CEEZAD and the Richt Lab.
The full article can be read by following this link: Ancestral lineage of SARS-CoV-2 is more stable in human biological fluids than Alpha, Beta and Omicron variants of concern - PubMed (nih.gov)
November 4, 2022
Evaluating α-galactosylceramide as an adjuvant for live attenuated influenza vaccines in pigs
A recently published article co-authored by the Director of the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (www.ceezad.org) and the Center on Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (CEZID; https://www.k-state.edu/cezid/) evaluates an novel adjuvant for live attenuated influenza vaccines in pigs.
The article was co-authored by Dr. Juergen A. Richt, Regents and University Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University and director of CEEZAD and CEZID. It was published in the August 2022 edition of the Journal of Animal Diseases.
Other co-authors included Bianca L. Artiaga, Igor Morozov, Russell Ransburgh, Taeyong Kwon, Velmurugan Balaraman, Sabarish V. Induran, Jamie Henningson and Wenjun Ma, all of CEEZAD and the Richt Lab.
Natural killer T (NKT) cells activated with the glycolipid ligand α-galactosylceramide (α-GalCer) stimulate a wide variety of immune cells that enhance vaccine-mediated immune responses. Several studies have used this approach to adjuvant inactivated and subunit influenza A virus (IAV) vaccines, including to enhance cross-protective influenza immunity.
However, less is known about whether α-GalCer can enhance live attenuated influenza virus (LAIV) vaccines, which usually induce superior heterologous and heterosubtypic immunity compared to non-replicating influenza vaccines. The current study used the swine influenza challenge model to assess whether α-GalCer can enhance cross-protective immune responses elicited by a recombinant H3N2 LAIV vaccine (TX98ΔNS1) encoding a truncated NS1 protein.
In one study, weaning pigs were administered the H3N2 TX98ΔNS1 LAIV vaccine with 0, 10, 50, and 100 μg/kg doses of α-GalCer, and subsequently challenged with a heterologous H3N2 virus. All treatment groups were protected from infection. Interestingly, the addition of α-GalCer appeared to decrease nasal shedding of the LAIV vaccine.
In another experiment, pigs vaccinated with the H3N2 LAIV, with or without 50 μg/kg of α-GalCer, were challenged with the heterosubtypic pandemic H1N1 virus. Pigs vaccinated with the LAIV alone generated cross-reactive humoral and cellular responses which blocked virus replication in the airways, and significantly decreased virus shedding. On the other hand, combining the vaccine with α-GalCer reduced cross-protective cellular and antibody responses, and resulted in higher virus titers in respiratory tissues.
These findings suggest that: (i) high doses of α-GalCer impair the replication and nasal shedding of the LAIV vaccine; and (ii) α-GalCer might interfere with heterosubtypic cross-protective immune responses. This research raise concerns that should be considered before trying to use NKT cell agonists as a possible adjuvant approach for LAIV vaccines.
The full article can be read by following this link: Evaluating α-galactosylceramide as an adjuvant for live attenuated influenza vaccines in pigs - PubMed (nih.gov)
November 4, 2022
Current scenario of viral diseases and vaccination strategies of cattle in Turkey
A recently published article co-authored by the Director of the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (www.ceezad.org) and the Center on Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (CEZID; https://www.k-state.edu/cezid/) explores the current state of viral disease and cattle vaccination strategies in Turkey.
The study was co-authored by Dr. Juergen A. Richt, Regents and University Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University and director of CEEZAD and CEZID. It was published in the August 2022 edition of the Journal of infection in Developing Countries.
The dairy and meat industry has rapidly developed in the last decade in Turkey and is playing a key role in supplying animal proteins for human consumption. Viral pathogens continue to threaten the dairy and meat industry leading to serious economic losses worldwide, including Turkey. The Turkish cattle industry has been vulnerable to the spread of viral diseases within the country.
Combating animal diseases is crucial for the economy of Turkey. A good cattle health management policy may reduce the direct losses associated with viral diseases and thereby lead to increase in export of animals and animal products. Countries that are unable to combat animal diseases remain excluded from international trade. Control and eradication of cattle diseases require the availability of effective and practical interventions including vaccination and biosecurity measures.
The article summarizes the currently available information about viral diseases in cattle in Turkey and emphasizes the need for disease monitoring and research, along with implementation of disease control measures to mitigate economic losses to farmers and the country. Authors believe that the information they present can be of great value in the research, prevention, and control of cattle diseases.
The full article can be read by following this link: Current scenario of viral diseases and vaccination strategies of cattle in Turkey - PubMed (nih.gov)
October 5, 2022
Dr. Bonnie Rush, Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University, presents Dr. Juergen A. Richt, director of CEEZAD and CEZID, with a certificate of recognition in honor of his receiving the inaugural BRI Endowed Professorship in October 2022. Dr. Richt was recognized for his "global research impact and distinguished leadership”.
September 16, 2022
Article describes detection of ASFV in ticks in extralimital warthog populations in South Africa
A recently published article co-authored by the Director of the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD; www.ceezad.org) and Center on Emerging and Zoonic Infectious Diseases (CEZID; https://www.k-state.edu/cezid/) describes the detection of African Swine Fever Virus in ticks in extralimital South African warthog populations..
The article was published in the July 26 edition of the journal Viruses. Dr. Juergen A. Richt, Regents and University Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University and director of EEZAD and CEZID, was among co-authors. Other co-authors included Dr. JessieTrujillo, who is also affiliated with CEEZAD and the Richt Lab.
The researchers investigated the possibility that sylvatic circulation of African swine fever virus (ASFV) in warthogs and Ornithodoros ticks had extended beyond the historically affected northern part of South Africa that was declared a controlled area in 1935 to prevent the spread of ASFV to the rest of the country. They had previously reported finding antibodies to the virus in extralimital warthogs in the south of the country, and in this article they describe the detection of infected ticks outside the controlled area in northern South Africa.
A total of 5,078 ticks were collected at 45 locations in 7 provinces during 2019-2021 and assayed as 711 pools for virus content by qPCR, while 221 pools were also analyzed for tick phylogenetics. Viral nucleic acid was detected in 50 tick pools representing all four members of the Ornithodoros (O.) moubata complex known to occur in South Africa: O. phacochoerus and O. waterbergensis species yielded ASFV genotypes XX, XXI, XXII at 4 locations and O. moubata yielded ASFV genotype I at two locations inside the controlled area.
Outside the controlled area, O. moubata and O. compactus ticks yielded ASFV genotype I at 7 locations, while genotype III ASFV was identified in O. compactus ticks at a single location. Two of the three species of the O. savignyi complex ticks known to be present in the country, O. kalahariensis and O. noorsveldensis, were collected at single locations and found negative for virus. The only member of the Pavlovskyella (P.) subgenus of Ornithodoros ticks known to occur in South Africa, O. (P.) zumpti, was collected from warthog burrows for the first time, and it tested negative for ASFV.
The article concluded that while it is now confirmed that there is sylvatic circulation of ASFV outside the controlled area in South Africa, there is a need for more extensive surveillance and for vector competence studies with various species of Ornithodoros ticks.
You can read the full article by following this link:
September 16, 2022
New article reports on findings concerning a SARS-CoV-2 antibody positive cat
A recently published article co-authored by the Director of the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD; www.ceezad.org) and Center on Emerging and Zoonic Infectious Diseases (CEZID; https://www.k-state.edu/cezid/) reports on findings of a recent study concerning a SARS-CoV-2 antibody positive cat.
The article was published in the July edition of the Journal of Veterinary Sciences. Dr. Juergen A. Richt, Regents and University Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University and director of CEEZAD and CEZID, was among co-authors.
The paper on which the article was based reports a presumptive severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection in a cat. A cat, living in a household with three individuals with coronavirus disease 2019, died with severe respiratory disease. The animal showed bilateral ground-glass opacities in the lung on X-ray and computed tomography. Clinical swabs were negative for SARS-CoV-2 RNA, but the serum was positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. Interstitial pneumonia and prominent type 2 pneumocyte hyperplasia were noted on histopathology. Respiratory tissues were negative for SARS-CoV-2 RNA or antigen, but the cat was positive for feline parvovirus DNA.
In conclusion, the respiratory disease and associated pathology in this cat could have been due to exposure to SARS-CoV-2.
You can read the full article by following this link:
July 17, 2022
New study finds that certain SARS-CoV-2 Spike mutations are important for infection of mice but not for escape from human immune sera
A recently published article co-authored by the director of the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (www.ceezad.org) and the Center on Emerging and Zoontic Infectious Diseases (https://www.k-state.edu/cezid) reports on new findings dealing with infection of mice with SARS CoV-2.
The article was published in the July edition of the journal Nature Communications. Dr. Juergen A. Richt, Regents Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University and director of CEEZAD and CEZID, was among the authors.
David A. Meekins, Chester D. McDowell and Velmurugan Belaraman, all members of the CEEZAD research team, were also among co-authors.
Due to differences in the human and murine angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE-2) receptor, initially circulating, ancestral Wuhan-like SARS-CoV-2 isolates could not infect mice. But in the article, the authors demonstrate that serial passaging of the Wuhan-like USA-WA1/2020 SARS-Cov-2 strain in mice results in a "mouse-adapted" SARS-CoV-2 strain (MA-SARS-CoV-2) with mutations in S, M, and N genes, and a twelve-nucleotide insertion in the S gene.
They also found that MA-SARS-CoV-2 infection in mice causes mild disease, with more pronounced morbidity depending on genetic background and in aged and obese animals. Two mutations in the S gene associated with the mouse adaptation (N501Y, H655Y) are also present in various SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VoCs).
The N501Y substitution in the receptor binding domain present also in Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Omicron VoCs, is associated with high transmissibility in humans and allows these VoCs to infect wild type mice. The authors also found that the S protein mutations found in the mouse-adapted MA-SARS-CoV-2 strain do not affect neutralization efficiency by human convalescent and post vaccination sera.
The full article can be read by following this link. Characterization of SARS-CoV-2 Spike mutations important for infection of mice and escape from human immune sera - PubMed (nih.gov)
July 15, 2022
Article reports on the development of indirect ELISAs for the detection of SARS CoV-2 antibodies in cats
A recently published article reports on findings by members of the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (www.ceezad.org) leading to development of an indirect ELISA for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in cats.
The article was published in the June edition of the journal Frontiers of Veterinary Science. Dr. Juergen A. Richt, Regents Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University and director of CEEZAD, was the senior author.
Co-authors were Dashzeveg Bold, Gleyder Roman-Sosa and Natasha Gaudreault, all associated with CEEZAD, as well as Roman Pogranichniy of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University and Batsukh Zayat, of the Mongolian University of Life Sciences in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
The article noted that companion animals such as cats are susceptible to a variety of coronaviruses, and recent studies show that felines are highly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection.
RT-PCR diagnostic is currently the method of choice to detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2-specific viral nucleic acids in animal samples during an active infection; however, serological assays are critical to determine whether animals were exposed to the virus and to determine the seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in a defined population.
In this study, CEEZAD researchers utilized recombinant nucleocapsid (N) protein and the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 expressed in E. coli (N) and mammalian cells (N, RBD) to develop indirect Enzyme-linked Immunoassays s (iELISAs) using well-characterized SARS-CoV-2-positive and -negative cat serum panels from previous experimental cat challenge studies.
The optimal conditions for the iELISA tests were established based on checkerboard dilutions of antigens and antibodies. The diagnostic sensitivity for the detection of feline antibodies specific for the SARS-CoV-2 N or RBD proteins of the iELISA tests was between 93.3 and 97.8%, respectively, and the diagnostic specificity 95.5%.
The iELISAs developed here can be used for high-throughput screening of cat sera for both SARS-CoV-2-specific antigens. The testing of SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies with the iELISAs can be performed in a BSL-2 biocontainment environment, unlike classical virus neutralization tests with live virus which have to be performed in BSL-3 laboratories.
BSL-3 Training/Transboundary Animal Diseases Summer Program
June 5-16, 2022
June 2, 2022
Ten students selected for CEEZAD’s 2022 BSL-3 Summer Training Program
An upcoming CEEZAD summer workshop will give 10 future veterinary researchers a chance to explore the full range of professional opportunities that will be available to them when they complete their studies. It will also acquaint those candidates with recent developments in the field of infectious disease studies in BSL-3 biocontainment.
The USDA BSL-3 Training Program for Research Support Personnel is an annual exercise in which CEEZAD gathers experts in the fields of biosecurity, virology, pathobiology and related fields in order to educate promising candidates who are interested in veterinary research in those fields. It will be held from June 5-17. Most of the sessions will take place at the Biosecurity Research Institute, a level 3 biocontainment facility at Kansas State University.
The program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service.
The participants, most of them PhD candidates, are involved in the study of various infectious diseases. Here are brief biographies along with descriptions of their future aspirations:
Wellesley Dittmar. A veterinary medicine and PhD student at Louisiana State University, Wellesley received her bachelors in biological engineering from Mississippi State in 2020. Wellesley has conducted research at the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Mississippi State, including the design of a device to measure blood flow within a laminitic equine hoof.
Her career goal is to become either a faculty member at a veterinary school or to pursue research at the Centers For Disease Control in order to identify and investigate new viruses in hot spots around the world.
Astrid Carcamo-Tzic. Astrid is a veterinary medicine technician at Kansas State University with an expected graduation date of 2026. Holder of bachelors and masters degrees from Kansas State, she is also a study assistant in clinical operations at Dechra Veterinary Products in Overland Park, Ks.
Astrid hopes to use the experience acquired through the CEEZAD BSL3 Summer Program to enhance her understanding of high-risk pathogens, among them African Swine Fever and Rift Valley Fever virus, and biosafety.
Emily Hedden. Holder of bachelors and masters degrees, the latter in veterinary biomedical science, from Kansas State University, Emily is working on a USDA-ARS arbovirology fellowship at the Oak Ridge Institute For Science and Education.
She wants to use the CEEZAD summer program to enhance her understanding of the process and importance of collaborations within industry, academia and the government that are required to help reduce the consequences of zoonotic animal diseases on public health.
Shelby Cagle. A PhD student in microbiology, immunology and pathology at Colorado State, Shelby holds a bachelors degree from the University of Tennessee in science communication and microbiology. She is a graduate research assistant at the Colorado State Center for Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases.
Shelby believes the CEEZAD summer program will provide the hands-on training needed for the safe conduct of BSL-3 level experiments, which will be the hallmark of her PhD work and future career aspirations.
Albert To. Holder of a PhD in biomedical sciences from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Albert is a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Tropical Medicine at the University of Hawaii.
Albert hopes to develop diagnostic antigen tests and preventative countermeasures for emerging pathogens, especially from regions that lack the technological capacity and/or workforce to do so. He hopes to use his knowledge gained during the CEEZAD summer program to advance that goal.
Zachary Baker. Zach is a graduate student working toward a PhD in molecular and cellular biology at Virginia Tech, where he received his bachelors in 2020. He is also working at the Hsu Lab at Virginia Tech.
Zach believes the CEEZAD summer program will enhance his ability to deal with potentially deadly pathogens that can infect the gastrointestinal tract, particularly those he may research as a professional in the field.
Emily Bencosme-Cuevas. A PhD student in veterinary pathobiology at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Emily has a bachelors degree from Northwestern State University in Louisiana.
Emily believes that the CEEZAD summer program will complement her graduate training to advance a long-term goal of becoming a primary investigator in the field of vaccine research against zoonotic diseases, including some that are studied under high-containment conditions. Emily also looks forward to the opportunity to interact with various industry experts.
Marina Wylie. Marina is a PhD candidate in the Emerging Infectious Diseases graduate program of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
Marina holds a bachelors degree from the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami, and has worked as a lab assistant at the University of Miami. Her goal is to use the CEEZAD summer program as a means of determining whether her future interests will focus on BSL3/4 animal research.
Viktoria Van Nederveen. Viktoria is a PhD candidate in the Emerging Infectious Diseases program at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Viktoria holds a bachelors degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from Lebanon Valley College.
Emily Medina Magues. Emily is a master of science student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is studying comparative biomedical sciences. Emily holds a degree in molecular biology from Wisconsin, and is interested in studying human and animal immunology and virology.
Emily hopes to use the CEEZAD summer program to advance her goal of working in high-containment environments. Emily also expects to learn much from hearing from industry and government leaders as well as research experts working in the field of high-containment and trans-boundary diseases.
May 26, 2022
KSU honors CEEZAD director, two staffers, for patent work
The director of the Center of Excellence For Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD, www.ceezad.org) was among Kansas State University faculty members honored May 9 for patents on discoveries made during 2021.
Dr. Juergen A. Richt, the Regents and University Distinguished Professor at K-State, was one of three CEEZAD researchers honored during the university’s Inventors and breeders Ceremony. The event recognized faculty members who were issued patents and plant variety protection certificates in 2021.
Also honored from CEEZAD were Dr. Igor Morozov, science project manager, and Sun Young Sunwoo, who at the time was a researcher affiliated with CEEZAD and the Richt Lab.
All three were honored for their work leading to a patent regarding the development of a vaccine to prevent Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease. That is a disease of white-tailed deer and cattle transmitted by midges.
May 13, 2022
CEEZAD receives NIHr01 grant to study infectious diseases
The National Institute of Health (NIH) has awarded a more than $3.7 million grant to the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD, www.ceezad.org) for research related to the study of influenza in humans.
NIH r01 grants provide support for health-related research and development. The award is made in conjunction with researchers at the University of Missouri. The two teams of researchers will be working cooperatively.
The research will focus on the ability of genetically modified pigs to model NKT cell immunity to infection with influenza viruses.
Pulmonary T cell-mediated immunity is critical for host protection from influenza virus infections. While current understanding of influenza immunity is focused on conventional MHC-restricted T cells that recognize peptide antigens, unconventional innate-like T cell subsets such as CD1d-restricted invariant natural killer T (NKT) cells, are emerging as integral effector components of the respiratory immune system, where they can play both a protective and immuno-pathological role in respiratory infections.
Although NKT cells are thought to make important contributions to influenza immunity, relatively little is known about their impact on human influenza infections due to a lack of suitable animal models.
The current proposal seeks to address this critical knowledge gap using swine, which offer an excellent model to determine the role of NKT cells for human influenza infections, including anti-influenza host defenses and influenza vaccine responses.
The award was made through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
April 29, 2022
New paper examines transmission patterns of mutations in SARS-CoV-2 variants
The Director of the Center of Excellence For Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD; www.ceezad.org) and the Center on Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (www.k-state.erdu/cezid) is co- author of a recently published paper examining transmission patterns of various mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The paper, by Dr. Juergen A. Richt, who in addition to his duties at CEEZAD and CEZID is also the Regents and University Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University, and other CEEZAD-affiliated researchers, was published in the March edition of Cell Host and Microbe, an offshoot of Cell Press.
SARS-CoV-2 has diverged into different variants termed "variants of concern" (VOCs). In the paper, researchers examined emerging SARS-CoV-2 spike polymorphisms in vitro and in vivo to understand their impact on transmissibility, virus pathogenicity and fitness. They found that the substitution Spike655Y, represented in the gamma and omicron VOCs, enhances viral replication and spike protein cleavage.
The Spike655Y substitution was transmitted more efficiently than its ancestor Spike655H in the hamster infection model and was able to outcompete Spike655H in the hamster model and in a human primary airway system.
They also analyzed a set of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs) to investigate how different sets of mutations may impact spike processing. All VOCs tested exhibited increased spike cleavage and fusogenic capacity.
Taken together, the study demonstrates that the spike mutations present in VOCs that become epidemiologically prevalent in humans are linked to an increase in spike processing capabilities and virus transmission.
Co-authors, in addition to Dr. Richt, from CEEZAD and Richt Lab, included: David Meekins, Velmurugan Balaraman, and Chester McDowell.
The full study can be read by following this link: Mutations in SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern link to increased spike cleavage and virus transmission - PubMed (nih.gov)