The Morris Animal Foundation and the American Veterinary Medical Foundation have partnered to fund research to help prevent canine influenza and avian influenza from becoming international pandemics. The research will look at virus transmission, monitoring, and containment.
"Canine and avian influenza viruses (cause) serious infectious diseases that affect animals and people," said Dr. Patricia Olson, president of MAF. "Understanding the spread of these viruses and how they can jump species is critical."
Based in Denver, the MAF is dedicated to funding research that protects, treats, and cures diseases of companion animals and wildlife. Established in 1948, the foundation has funded more than 1,300 humane animal health studies with funds approaching $50 million.
Dr. Anna van Heeckeren, chair of the AVMF Grants and Awards Committee, noted that, for the past decade, the AVMF has funded disaster preparedness initiatives as they affect animals.
"Understanding influenza virus infections in dogs and birds will help us prepare for a potential pandemic affecting both animals and humans, so it makes sense for the AVMF to fund these kinds of studies," she said.
Dr. Cynda Crawford, a veterinary immunologist at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, is the lead researcher in the MAF/AVMF study of canine influenza.
"This study will determine the prevalence of influenza virus infections in shelters, and identify the factors associated with (their) introduction and spread," Dr. Crawford said. "We hope to develop effective guidelines for managing respiratory infections."
While researchers believe canine influenza currently affects only dogs, the H5N1 avian influenza virus has spread throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa, affecting wild and domestic birds as well as other species, including humans. Persistence of the virus in aquatic habitats is a critical component in the transmission of avian influenza virus among wild birds, and from wild birds to domestic poultry.
Dr. Justin Brown, a graduate research assistant at the University of Georgia, is studying the ability of avian influenza virus to persist in water. As an MAF fellowship training grant recipient, Dr. Brown will receive mentorship from Dr. David Stallknecht, associate professor in the Department of Population Health at the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine. The project is part of the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the veterinary college.
The American Veterinary Medical Foundation is committed to partnerships that further research in animal health issues. A charitable gift to the foundation may be designated specifically to the Animal Health Studies Fund to ensure its use in the area of research. To learn more, visit www.avmf.org.
To learn more about the Morris Animal Foundation, or to make a donation, phone (800) 243-2345, or visit www.MorrisAnimalFoundation.org.