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January 15, 2020

In Short

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Scientists discover how parvovirus learned to infect dogs

Parvovirus infected cats and other animals long before it acquired a few mutations and started a worldwide epizootic among dogs in the late 1970s. Now, a team led by Cornell University’s Colin Parrish, PhD, has worked with the laboratory of Susan Hafenstein, PhD, at Pennsylvania State University to discover how parvovirus enters cells in dogs.

In a paper published Oct. 8, 2019, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers reported that the virus attaches to the pointy end of the transferrin receptor, a protein that all cells use normally to take in iron. Once attached to the receptor, the virus sways back and forth. It’s possible that this rock-and-roll action causes the virus to change shape and be transported inside the cell, which is the first step on the pathway to infection.

Heather Callaway, PhD, a former graduate student in Dr. Parrish’s laboratory, worked with postdoctoral researcher Hyunwook Lee, PhD, in Dr. Hafenstein’s group to visualize the interaction using cryo-electron microscopy. This technique allowed the researchers to freeze the purified virus and receptor together, catching them in the act of binding, so that the researchers could see exactly how the attachment occurred.

In the future, researchers will look for a drug or antibody to block receptor binding in infected dogs, particularly puppies that are too young to be vaccinated.

Boehringer Ingelheim expands site to meet demand

BI manufacturing site
Boehringer Ingelheim’s manufacturing site in Barceloneta, Puerto Rico (Courtesy of BI)

Boehringer Ingelheim announced Nov. 13, 2019, a nearly $50 million expansion of its manufacturing site in Barceloneta, Puerto Rico, to meet growing demand for its products.

Headquartered in Duluth, Georgia, Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc. has invested more than $220 million to expand sites in Georgia, Missouri, and Puerto Rico in the last few years.

Secretary Manuel A. Laboy Rivera of the Puerto Rico Department of Economic Development and Commerce noted that the pharmaceutical industry in Puerto Rico accounts for 29.9% of the territory’s gross domestic product, according to a BI press release.

The Barceloneta plant has been in operation for 48 years; it manufactures Heartgard Plus, a combination heartworm preventive and intestinal wormer. The $49.9 million expansion will allow the site to start manufacturing NexGard, a flea and tick preventive. The Barceloneta site already packages NexGard manufactured in Brazil for shipment to the United States and Canada.

This fall, Boehringer Ingelheim plans to donate the first of 60,000 doses of rabies vaccine and tens of thousands of dollars to fight rabies in Puerto Rico.

Rescues implicated in Canadian outbreak of dog flu

Imported dogs likely spread canine influenza to Canada, causing outbreaks in 2017-18, according to health investigators.

Investigators found links between clusters of illnesses in Ontario and dogs that had arrived from South Korea and China, according to findings published in the October issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases. One of the article authors—Dr. Scott Weese, veterinary internist at the University of Guelph and associate editor for EID—also described the findings in a November podcast.

The article indicates an H3N2 canine influenza A virus sickened at least 104 dogs in Ontario from December 2017 through October 2018. One died, and another was euthanized.

Investigations linked the imported dogs with rescue organizations. Dr. Weese said people with rescue organizations bring dogs into North America from Asia to remove them from meat production.

Read the article, and listen to the podcast

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