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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.

Monday, July 15, 2024

Brain invasion of bovine coronavirus: molecular analysis of bovine coronavirus infection in calves with severe pneumonia and neurological signs

Photo by Leah Newhouse

An article co-authored by 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 (CEZID; https://www.k-state.edu/cezid/) studies the ability of the bovine coronavirus to impact the brain.

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 May 24 edition of the Journal of Veterinary Science.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37938158/

Although the role of bovine coronavirus (BCoV) in calf diarrhea and respiratory disorders is well documented, its contribution to neurological diseases is unclear.

The study involved virological investigations of calves showing diarrhea and respiratory and neurological signs.

An outbreak of diarrhea, respiratory, and neurological disorders occurred among 12 calves in July 2022 in Istanbul, Türkiye. Two of these calves exhibited neurological signs and died a few days after the appearance of symptoms. One of these calves was necropsied and analyzed using molecular and histopathological tests.

BCoV RNA was detected in the brain, lung, spleen, liver, and intestine of the calf that had neurological signs by real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. Immunostaining was also observed in the intestine and brain. A 622 bp S1 gene product was amplified from RNA  derived from the brain. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that the BCoV detected in this study had a high homology to the BCoV strain GIb with 99.19% nucleotide sequence identity to the BCoV strains detected in Poland, Israel, Türkiye, and France.. In addition, the highest identity (98,72%) was obtained with the HECV 4408 and L07748 strains of human coronaviruses.

In summary, the BCoV  detected in a calf brain from turkey belongs to the GIb-European lineage and shares high sequence homology with BCoV isolates detected in Europe and Israel. In addition, the similarity with  human coronaviruses (4408 and L07748) raises questions about the zoonotic potential of the BCoV detected in this study.


Monday, July 15, 2024

CEEZAD scientists advance understanding of Rift Valley Fever phlebovirus reassortment in sheep

An article co-authored by 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 (CEZID; https://www.k-state.edu/cezid/) describes the reassortment ability of the Rift Valley Fever virus in sheep.

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 May 30 edition of Viruses. Rift Valley Fever Phlebovirus Reassortment Study in Sheep - PMC (nih.gov)

SheepOther co-authors include Igor MorozovNatasha N GaudreaultJessie D Trujillo, Sabarish V Indran, David A MeekinsVelmurugan Balaraman, In Joong Kim, Kinga Urbaniak, Sun Young Sunwoo, Bonto Faburay, Klaus Osterrrieder, Michelle D. Zajac,Vinay Sinjay, all of the Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology at Kansas State University and CEEZAD, and William C. Wilson, of NBAF.

Rift Valley fever (RVF) in ungulates and humans is caused by a mosquito-borne RVF phlebovirus (RVFV). Live attenuated vaccines are used in livestock (sheep and cattle) to control RVF in endemic regions during outbreaks. The ability of two or more different RVFV strains to reassort when co-infecting a host cell is a significant veterinary and public health concern due to the potential emergence of newly reassorted viruses, since reassortment of RVFVs has been documented in nature and in experimental infection studies.

Due to the very limited information regarding the frequency and dynamics of RVFV reassortment, CEEZAD researchers evaluated the efficiency of RVFV reassortment in sheep, a natural host for this zoonotic pathogen. Co-infection experiments were performed, first in vitro in sheep-derived cells, and subsequently in vivo in sheep. Two RVFV co-infection groups were evaluated: group I consisted of co-infection with two wild-type (WT) RVFV strains, Kenya 128B-15 (Ken06) and Saudi Arabia SA01-1322 (SA01), while group II consisted of co-infection with the live attenuated virus (LAV) vaccine strain MP-12 and a WT strain, Ken06.

In the in vitro experiments, the virus supernatants were collected 24 hours post-infection. In the in vivo experiments, clinical signs were monitored, and blood and tissues were collected at various time points up to nine days post-challenge for analyses. Cell culture supernatants and samples from sheep were processed, and plaque-isolated viruses were genotyped to determine reassortment frequency.

The researchers’ results show that RVFV reassortment is more efficient in sheep-derived cells compared to sheep. In vitro, the reassortment frequencies reached 37.9% for the group I co-infected cells and 25.4% for the group II co-infected cells. In contrast, just 1.7% reassortant viruses from group I sheep co-infected with the two WT strains, while no reassortants were detected from group II sheep co-infected with the WT and LAV strains.

The results indicate that RVFV reassortment occurs at a lower frequency in vivo in sheep when compared to in vitro conditions in sheep-derived cells. Further studies are needed to better understand the implications of RVFV reassortment in relation to virulence and transmission dynamics in the host and the vector. The knowledge learned from these studies on reassortment is important for understanding the dynamics of RVFV evolution.


Monday, Juy 1, 2024

Ten students gain knowledge from CEEZAD’s 2024 BSL-3 Summer Training Program

BSL-3 Students

A CEEZAD recent summer workshop has given 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 also acquainted those candidates with recent developments in the field of veterinary infectious disease studies in high level 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 was held June 10 through June 20. Most of the sessions took place at the Biosecurity Research Institute, a level 3 biocontainment facility at Kansas State University.

The program was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service.

The participants, most of them DVM/PhD or PhD students, received instruction on protocols and procedures for working in a BSL Level 3 biocontainment environment, and gained experience with protective gear used in such environments. They also listened to internationally recognized experts in the fields of veterinary or zoonotic research and veterinary pharmaceuticals which discussed opportunities and present findings concerning their areas of expertise.

 Here are brief biographies of the students along with their observations of what they gained from the experience:

Zachary Barrand is a PhD candidate and research associate at the Translational Genomics Research Institute at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. His research interests focus on vector genomic and microbiome influences on the maintenance, evolution and transmission of vector-borne diseases between reservoir, wildlife and human hosts.

He said the CEEZAD Summer Training Program  intrigued him because of his interest in vector-borne zoonotic diseases. His goal is to be a principal investigator “at an academic institution or in a government position,” potentially with the Centers for Disease Control or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Estefany Cotto-Lopez is a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota.  Holder of masters degrees in OneHealth from the University of Florida and Environmental Health from the University of Puerto Rico, she has been a research assistant in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota.  She hopes to use her summer experience to facilitate her long-term professional goal of conducting research to develop innovative technologies to combat infectious diseases.

She said her participation in the Summer Training Program “opens the door for more high-containment training.” She wants to work in that type of facility, and finds it helpful to be able to see  and hear from “people who are doing the (high-containment) research.”

Meghan Donaldson is a PhD student in the biochemistry, microbiology and molecular biology program at Pennsylvania State University. She has a degree in microbiology from Colorado State University and has been a doctoral research fellow for Dr. Jose Joyce at Penn State. Her aspiration is to pursue educational and professional experiences relevant to BSL-3 and BSL-4 lab facilities.

Meghan, who has researched COVID-19 and Zika virus, hopes to work in a BSL-3 or BSL-4 environment. “My dream has always been to work in high-containment,” she said. Meghan found one of the most valuable aspects of the institute to be the opportunity to “grow my network” of knowledgeable professionals.

Daryn Erickson is a PhD student in the College of the Environment, Forestry and Natural Sciences at Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. Her (?) research interests include non-invasive viral surveillance methods to improve proactive mitigation strategies. Her doctoral studies have focused on surveillance of RNA viruses in complex, sometimes non-traditional sample types such as wastewater, mosquito pools and residual rapid test swabs.

Daryn has gained experience as a user of the Select Agent facility at Northern Arizona and sought to broaden her experience with Level 3 facilities through the Summer Training Program. “There are strict guidelines at all Level 3 facilities,” she said, “but when it gets to procedural things you will see slight differences,” she added. She also wants to research ways “to make what we’re doing less scary to the public.” 

Kayla Buck Garrett is a doctoral student and associate wildlife biologist with the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia. Holder of a masters in forest resources at Georgia, she hopes to use her summer training institute experience to expand her research capabilities to BSL-3 facilities, enabling her to work on a wider range of pathogens.

Kayla found the program  “incredibly useful” because she came to it with little exposure to BSL-3 operations. “This program has been useful in teaching me how to do BSL-3 work,” she said.

Hayley Masterson is a doctor of veterinary medicine who is a PhD student at Washington State University. She has worked in a research laboratory and hopes to use her summer experience to enhance her ability to develop and perform laboratory research with a particular interest in tick-transmitted disease.

Hayley said she “really likes the “clinical part of research” because of the opportunity it provides to do laboratory work.

Greyson Moore is a PhD candidate in biomedical and veterinary science at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, Va. Greyson has a degree in biology and hopes to use the Summer Program  experience to help him fulfill he ambition for a career “at the intersection of translational medicine … to drive scientific discovery in relation to clinical and public applications.”

Greyson found the opportunity for “networking and learning about career paths” to be a valuable aspect of the program .

Kade Shomin is a graduate of the microbiology program at Michigan STATE or UM??. He is in the process of applying to veterinary schools with the hope of studying zoonotic high-consequence pathogens.

“I thought this (summer program) was an awesome opportunity,” Kade said. He hopes to focus his studies on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, which he said he is “fascinated by.”  

Jason Thornton is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps and a PhD student in infectious diseases and immunology at the University of Florida. He is also board-certified in veterinary anatomic pathology. Following completion of his PhD work, he hopes to serve in a high-priority position within the U.S. Medical Research and Development Command or the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

He is now working on a Tier 1 select agent that requires BSL-3 experience. He hopes some day to work at the Army’s USAMRIID facility at Frederick, Md., using both his military and veterinary research expertise.

Morgen VanderGiessen is a doctoral student in the Infectious diseases Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, VA. She has a degree in biochemistry and a masters in life sciences. Her doctoral research focuses on intersecting neurological pathways of traumatic brain injuries, organophosphate exposure and encephalitic alphavirus infections. She hopes to use her summer experience to obtain BSL-3 lab research training, especially as it relates to large animal research.

She said she was interested in the summer program because she had previously met CEEZAD Director Dr. Juergen A. Richt, and “I knew they would know the right people’ to further her professional pursuits. She is undecided between a government or industry career, but wants to work with BSL-3 Ag pathogens.

Saturday, June 29, 2024



Thursday, June 27, 2024

1 big thing: A biodefense project rises on the plains



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