Scientists gain fresh insights into virulence of pandemic H1N1 virus

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Washington, July 31 (ANI): Kansas State University researchers say that the studies they are carrying out with collaborators from other institutions have started to reveal the characteristics of the pandemic H1N1 virus.

Juergen Richt, a Regents Distinguished Professor at K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine and Kansas Bioscience Authority Eminent Scholar, studies zoonotic disease-those that can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa.

"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. This expertise is very critical now that an agent causing a pandemic flu in humans most likely originated in animal populations," Richt said.

The researcher is leading in vitro research to develop better testing tools, creating a "diagnostic arsenal" if H1N1 were to spread to swine populations.

Richt said that the research team were 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, says the researcher.

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

The researcher revealed that, working with outside collaborators, the K-State researchers were testing the virulence of pandemic H1N1 in animal models.

His team have thus far found that pandemic H1N1 does infect pigs, and that it transmits between the animals but is not fatal.

"Its important to know the clinical and pathological effects this virus has on pigs. 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," Richt said.

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 by comparing an isolate from California with one from Mexico.

They found that the California isolate was more virulent than the Mexico isolate.

According to them, both pandemic H1N1 viruses are more virulent than seasonal H1N1 flu viruses.

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

"Pandemic H1N1 is another example of how important it is to work on the nexus of human and animal health," he said. (ANI)

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