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K-State Researcher, Collaborators Study Virulence of Pandemic H1N1 Virus; Work at K-State Would Protect Pig Industry If the Virus Jumps to Swine Populations
Date:8/3/2009

MANHATTAN, Kan., Aug. 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Laboratory studies at Kansas State University and the work of a K-State researcher are making headway in the effort to control the pandemic H1N1 virus.

Juergen Richt is a Regents Distinguished Professor at K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine and is a Kansas Bioscience Authority Eminent Scholar. His work at K-State and with outside collaborators is revealing the characteristics of the pandemic H1N1 virus.

Richt is among the K-State researchers who study zoonotic disease -- those that can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa. Zoonotic diseases will be a focus of the National Agro and Bio-Defense Facility that has been designated for Manhattan.

"Our strength at K-State is that we are very familiar with zoonotic diseases and we can contribute by working on models for animal and human diseases," Richt said. "This expertise is very critical now that an agent causing a pandemic flu in humans most likely originated in animal populations."

At K-State, Richt is leading in vitro research to develop better testing tools, creating a "diagnostic arsenal" if H1N1 were to spread to swine populations. Richt said they are developing diagnostic tools for the direct detection of the virus by finding nucleic acids or other parts of the virus in a sample, as well as tools for indirect detection. The latter approach is done by creating diagnostics that detect antibodies produced by animals infected with the virus.

"We do this work to protect the pig industry in case the virus would jump into the swine population," Richt said.

His work with outside collaborators is testing the virulence of pandemic H1N1 in animal models. In pigs, Richt and his fellow researchers found that pandemic H1N1 does infect pigs and transmits between the animals but is not fatal.

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