Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases and One Health

Tonight’s one health discussion was led by Dr. Jürgen Richt, a veterinary microbiologist and distinguished professor at the Kansas State College of Veterinary Medicine. He also serves as the director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD). Dr. Richt shared experiences from his journey in One Health, from practicing large animal medicine to doctoral studies in virology. He provided a working definition and history of one health and why a focus on identifying and preventing emerging infectious diseases is economically important.

Dr. Jürgen Richt
A large amount of Dr. Richt’s research has been done on prion diseases, infectious diseases caused by pathogenic agents causing “misfolding” of normal host proteins. Examples given included: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle, Scrapie in sheep, Chronic Wasting Disease in cervids, and Transmissible Mink Encephalopathy (TME). BSE has been confirmed as transmissible to humans, causing Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and its variants, but others such as CWD are still unconfirmed as zoonotic due to long incubation times and difficulty of ante-mortem testing. Dr. Richt developed prion protein (PrP) “knock-out” calves though a series of cloning trials. These calves were tested against normal wild-type cattle inoculated with prion disease (cattle-adapted TME brain homogenate) and monitored in the same facility for signs of disease. By 16 months post-infection, all wild-type animals were showing clinical signs of infection, while the PrP knock out cattle were healthy. These findings were confirmed histologically and immunologically. The prion-deficient cattle developed in this study may be a useful model for prion research and a source of prion-free bovine industrial products.

The topic of discussion was moved to a brief overview of Dr. Richt’s work with swine origin H1N1, in which researchers attempted to recreate pandemic H1N1 in a porcine host. Findings from this study indicated that H1N1 could not be recreated in any of the study animals, raising the question that it may have not been created in the pig, but arose from possible co-infection and reassortment of several viruses in another mixing vessel such as a human or turkey.

Dr. Richt then moved on to introducing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD), which was founded in June of 2010 to develop countermeasures to foreign animal and zoonotic diseases, which have increased in incidence and number over time. Some current projects include the development of vaccines for Rift Valley Fever Virus (RVFV), Foot and Mouth Disease Virus (FMDV), Avian Influenza Virus (AIV), and Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV). Another research goal of CEEZAD is to create unbiased detection of disease agents, such that it is easy for any individual to use in the field. A third area of CEEZAD activity is focused on epidemiological modeling to guide U.S. emergency response to emerging threats, to predict disease, and select geographic locations and species for disease surveillance. An overlay to CEEZAD research themes is the education and outreach of future experts in animal health. A major strength of this established infrastructure is the number of federal, state, industrial, and research partners and collaborators involved with CEEZAD’s vision and mission. 

Post authored by Natalie Padgurskis, DVM (UNC MPH candidate)

Up next (28 Feb):
The West Nile Virus Outbreak of 1999: A Compelling Argument for One Health
Tracey S. McNamara, DVM, DACVP, Professor of Pathology at Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine

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