May 01, 2008


 Influenza research studies make progress

Posted April 1, 2008

Dr. Cynda Crawford, a veterinary immunologist at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, has identified two viruses causing respiratory disease outbreaks in dogs in Florida shelters—canine respiratory coronavirus and parainfluenza virus.

Identifying the respiratory coronavirus was a "new, exciting piece of information," Dr. Crawford said, because it provides some of the first evidence of the virus causing respiratory tract infections in dogs in the United States.

Dr. Crawford came across the viruses while studying canine influenza in dogs in shelters. The study is one of two Morris Animal Foundation studies that the American Veterinary Medical Foundation has agreed to fund for a second year.

Dr. Justin Brown and Dr. David Stallknecht, both at the University of Georgia, are conducting the second study, which is on avian influenza. Over the past year, the two have studied the ability of avian influenza virus to persist in water. They believe the results will provide insight into the risks of viral transmission from wild birds to domestic poultry. Dr. Brown is the recipient of an MAF Fellowship Training grant and is receiving mentorship from Dr. Stallknecht.

Each study will receive $25,000 from the AVMF Animal Health Studies Fund. The studies were awarded the same amount in 2007.

"These grants to Morris Animal Foundation reinforce our belief that only by working together can we make a difference in the outcomes for animals," said Dr. Robert E. "Bud" Hertzog, AVMF chair. The AVMF agreed to fund the studies to help prevent canine influenza and avian influenza from becoming international pandemics.

Along with identifying canine respiratory coronavirus and parainfluenza virus, Dr. Crawford has gathered information on the prevalence of canine influenza in shelters and identified factors associated with virus introduction and spread. She has found that influenza occurs more commonly in shelters located in communities where the virus is endemic. Key factors that promote introduction and spread of the virus are the failure to promptly remove dogs with tracheobronchitis from the general dog population and lack of adequate isolation facilities for dogs with contagious respiratory tract infections. Movement of staff between infected dogs and other dogs without proper biosecurity measures and the transfer of dogs between shelters with ongoing respiratory tract infection problems also promote spread of the virus.