Researchers study virulence of pandemic H1N1 virus

Jul 30, 2009

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 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 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 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.

"Its important to know the clinical and pathological effects this virus has on pigs," Richt said. "It is also important to perform these experiments because we produce reagents in the pigs that we use later for diagnostic purposes as controls to validate our testing systems."

The researchers also studied the virulence of two strains of the pandemic H1N1 virus in a nonhuman primate model as a way to predict how the strains would affect humans. Comparing an isolate from California with one from Mexico, Richt and his collaborators found that the California isolate was more virulent than the Mexico isolate. Both pandemic H1N1 viruses are more virulent than seasonal H1N1 flu viruses.

"With different isolates, there are different clinical outcomes," he said.

Establishing animal models for pandemic H1N1 is important, Richt said, because physicians have two types of antiviral medications to treat influenza. One type, called adamantine-like drugs, targets the M2 protein; the other type includes drugs like Tamiflu that target the neuraminidase protein. He said that this pandemic H1N1 is already resistant to the M2 inhibitors but still is sensitive to Tamiflu.

"Some pandemic flu isolates from humans have now shown resistance to the Tamiflu," Richt said. "So the big issue now is if these Tamiflu-resistant strains take over, we have no drug to treat infected patients. And because we don't have a vaccine yet in the United States, this might be a problem.

"Pandemic is another example of how important it is to work on the nexus of human and animal health," he said.

Source: Kansas State University (news : web)

Explore further: Fighting back against superbugs

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Fighting back against superbugs

1 hour ago

Antibiotics—and antibiotic resistance—are in the news once again, with announcements by McDonald's and Costco that they will eliminate antibiotics that are important to human medicine from use in the ...

Harnessing the power of microbes as therapeutics

2 hours ago

A new report recently released by the American Academy of Microbiology discusses how specific microbes can be modified to enhance their therapeutic potential for treating human diseases such as cancer and antibiotic resistant ...

New genetic link found for alcohol-related liver cirrhosis

2 hours ago

In most people, any liver damage that might occur from drinking alcohol is reversible. However, in 25 to 30 percent of alcoholics what begins as accumulation of fat in the liver progresses to inflammation, fibrosis and ultimately ...

Could camel antibodies protect humans from MERS?

2 hours ago

Antibodies from dromedary camels protected uninfected mice from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and helped infected mice expunge the disease, according to a study published online March 18th in the ...

Sierra Leone ends anti-Ebola lockdown after three days

6 hours ago

Sierra Leoneans were once again allowed to leave their homes Sunday evening after the government announced the end of a three-day nationwide lockdown aimed at preventing a resurgence of the deadly Ebola virus.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.