KSU and St. Jude partner on one-health study of swine flu viruses

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Two Kansas State University veterinarians have received a seven-year, $1 million National Institutes of Health grant to study swine influenza viruses as part of a collaborative project with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, the university announced in September.

With assistance from the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the Abilene Animal Hospital in Abilene, Kansas, Drs. Juergen Richt and Wenjun Ma will use samples from diseased pig populations to isolate and characterize various swine influenza viruses.

“Sequence analysis of these samples can provide knowledge of the genetic evolution of influenza A viruses in pigs,” said Dr. Richt, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases at Kansas State. “If the genetics are different from what was known before, then we can characterize viruses in more detail and help in the development of novel vaccines and diagnostic tests if necessary.”

Drs. Richt and Ma will be working with Richard Webby, MD, who is part of St. Jude’s Department of Infectious Diseases and principal investigator for the St. Jude Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance. The center is part of a larger group of institutions that provide the U.S. government with one-health tools and strategies to control and lessen the impact of epidemic influenza and the increasing threat of pandemic influenza.