Manhattan, Kan. -- A veterinary professor and fellow researchers at Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine are conducting studies into the characteristics of the pandemic H1N1 flu virus and developing better detection methods.
-- A veterinary professor and fellow researchers at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine are conducting studies into the characteristics of the pandemic H1N1 flu virus and developing better detection methods.
Juergen Richt, a Regents Distinguished Professor in the veterinary college and a Kansas Bioscience Authority Eminent Scholar, is leading in vitro research to develop better H1N1 testing tools and overall preparation should the virus spread to swine populations, with a goal of protecting the swine industry. His group already has learned that H1N1 does infect pigs and will transmit between the animals but is not fatal.
The diagnostic tools they are working on would detect the virus directly by finding nucleic acids or other parts of the virus in samples, and indirectly by detecting antibodies produced by infected animals.
The researchers also studied the virulence of two strains of H1N1 in a nonhuman primate model to determine how the strains would affect humans. They found that an isolate strain from California was more virulent than one from Mexico, and that both are more virulent than seasonal H1N1 flu viruses.
Creating animal models for pandemic H1N1 is important, according to Richt, because physicians have two types of antiviral medications, one that targets the M2 protein and the other, including the drug Tamiflu, which targets the neuraminidase protein. Pandemic H1N1 has become resistant to the M2 inhibitors but is still sensitive to Tamiflu, Richt says. However, some pandemic flu isolates from humans are beginning to show resistance to Tamiflu.
The findings show the importance of research into zoonotic diseases, Richt says. “Our strength at K-State is that we are very familiar with zoonotic diseases and that expertise is very critical now that an agent causing a pandemic flu in humans most likely originated in animal populations,” he adds.Zoonotic diseases will be a focus of the new $563 million National Agro and Bio-Defense Facility (NABF that is coming to Manhattan, Kan., replacing the government’s aging research facility at Plum Island, N.Y. The Manhattan site was chosen earlier this year over four other proposed sites.