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NIH funds hepatitis E research at Virginia-Maryland

Dr. Meng
X.J. Meng, MD, PhD (Courtesy of Virginia Tech)

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a five-year grant totaling nearly $2 million to X.J. Meng, MD, PhD, a professor of molecular virology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, to support his research on hepatitis E virus, the causative agent of hepatitis E in humans.

This is Dr. Meng's third successful competing renewal for NIH funding. He has contributed to the discovery of two novel hepatitis E viruses, including a 1997 finding and identification of the first animal strain of HEV from a pig.

Hepatitis E virus causes more than 44,000 deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization. Describing the virus as a public health pathogen, Dr. Meng said in a statement that a significant clinical problem has gained attention in recent years: the development of chronic hepatitis E among immunocompromised people, as well as the high mortality rate, reaching up to 25%, among infected pregnant women.

"Scientists just don't understand why," Dr. Meng said. "Why would the virus infect pregnant women and apparently cause such a high mortality? What are the factors in the host and virus contributing to fulminant hepatitis during pregnancy? Not only does the infected pregnant woman die, but the fetus also dies. This predicament has remained elusive for many years."

AVMF offers scholarships

AVMF logoThe American Veterinary Medical Foundation is accepting applications Sept. 1-Oct. 15 through the Auxiliary to the AVMA Legacy Endowed Scholarship Program. Applicants need to be second- or third-year veterinary students at AVMA Council on Education–accredited schools and U.S. citizens with at least a 2.5 GPA.

Other requirements include Student AVMA membership, as well as involvement in other university or nonuniversity organizations and activities. The AVMF also will consider financial need.

Information is at

The AVMF gives the scholarships through a fund established by the Auxiliary to the AVMA, an organization of veterinarians' spouses that transferred $2 million to the AVMF in 2013. The AVMF gave four $1,000 scholarships during the 2018-19 academic year, and the amount and number of scholarships to be awarded for the 2019-20 year was still being decided at publication.

Businessman donates money to NC State

Businessman Jerry Wordsworth donated an unrestricted cash gift to North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine in June. The amount of the gift has not been released.

Wordsworth has a history with the university; he graduated in 1966 from NC State with an associate degree in livestock management and technology.

"When I was a child, I always wanted to be a veterinarian," Wordsworth said in a press release from the veterinary college. "It is now my privilege to help support the next generation of veterinarians being trained here in North Carolina."

His Labrador Retriever has received care at the NC State veterinary hospital through the rehabilitation, neurology, and orthopedics services, according to the release.

Wordsworth helped grow his family's food distribution business, Meadowbrook Meat Co., in a leadership role. The company was sold to McLane Co., a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, in 2012. He and his brother Steve were also minority stake owners of the Carolina Panthers before the team was sold in 2018.

The gift is a part of a larger NC State fundraising effort, Think and Do Extraordinary, to raise $1.6 billion for scholarships, research, programs, and facilities. The university had raised about $1.49 billion as of mid-July.

Wordsworth said that he hopes his gift encourages others to support North Carolina's educational institutions.

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