Weekly livestock news: September 25, 2023

Purdue to develop field test to detect SARS-CoV-2 virus in animals

Purdue University has received $2.7 million in funding from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to develop a field test that can measure and predict the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) in a range of wildlife and farm animals. The research team’s goal is to provide a simple and affordable way for animal and public health agencies on tribal, state, federal and private lands to track transmission of the virus as it potentially spreads between different animal species and humans. They plan to collect nearly 2,000 nasal and oral samples from more than three dozen species of mammals and birds, from cattle, swine and wolves to chickens, ducks and turkeys.

Pig kidney xenotransplant gives hope to organ supply future

After 61 days of observation, NYU Langone Health doctors this month completed the longest-documented case of a genetically engineered pig kidney functioning in a human body. The procedure, known as a xenotransplant, which involves the transplant of an animal organ into a human, was performed on July 14, and led by Robert Montgomery, the H. Leon Pachter, MD, professor and chair of the department of surgery and director of the NYU Langone Transplant Institute. The organ was removed September 13 from a 58-year-old man who had been on a ventilator, with his family’s consent, after being declared dead by neurologic criteria before the xenotransplant. The kidney used in the procedure was procured from what is known as a GalSafe pig, an animal engineered by Revivicor Inc. This latest study shows that a single-gene knockout pig kidney can perform optimally after two months. “In order to create a sustainable unlimited supply of organs, we need to know how to manage pig organs transplanted into humans,” Montgomery said.

Kansas State University receives $1.2 million in grants for animal vaccine development

Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine received two grants to fund research for vaccine development to protect swine and cattle from infectious diseases. The combined grants exceed $1.2 million and are funded for a three-year period by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. “It’s very exciting… to know that your work can keep progressing and that you have some sort of way for you to continue to investigate what you’re working on,” said Daniel Madden, a graduate student in veterinary medicine. Madden works for a lab led by Jürgen Richt, principal investigator in the development of a vaccine for African swine fever. Waithaka Mwangi, professor of diagnostic medicine pathobiology, said he is also leading research focusing on developing vaccines protecting against the bovine parainfluenza virus and bovine viral diarrhea virus in cattle. The Kansas State Collegian reports.

Proposed legislation would open loan repayment program to more veterinarians

Legislation that would help increase rural access to veterinary care has been reintroduced into both chambers of Congress. Formerly known as the VMLRP Enhancement Act, the bipartisan Rural Veterinary Workforce Act would help attract more veterinarians into rural areas by expanding the reach of the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program. The VMLRP places food animal and public health veterinarians in high-need communities by repaying up to $75,000 in educational debt in exchange for their service. But unlike similar programs for physicians and other human health care providers, VMLRP awards are federally taxed. The USDA, which oversees the VMLRP, is required by law to pay the tax on behalf of the award recipient. The department currently pays out 39% of VMLRP’s annual congressional funding in taxes. The proposed law would end the federal tax on the program, making its full funding available to veterinarians. The AVMA supports the bill.

Avian flu returns to Canada

Highly pathogenic avian influenza has returned to Canada, with the country’s first detection of HPAI in a commercial poultry flock since May, WattAgNet reports. According to a report from the World Organization for Animal Health, the presence of H5N1 bird flu was confirmed in a commercial poultry flock in Warner County, Alberta, on September 14. The affected premises was a mixed poultry farm that involved turkeys, broilers and layers. The affected flock involved 1,960 susceptible birds, 390 of which had died. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency immediately quarantined the premises and began implementing strict movement controls, WOAH reported. The remaining 1,570 birds were euthanized.

‘Cow COVID’ threatens livestock in Europe

The first case of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in Europe was detected in Italy in November 2022. Since then, it has killed hundreds of cattle in Europe and has quickly spread to Spain, El País reports. The virus spreads via an insect that is not common in Spain, but climate change and international animal shipments have facilitated the spread of these disease vectors. EHD does not affect people or meat, but it poses a critical threat for livestock as there is no vaccine available and infected cattle must be slaughtered. Experts compare EHD to COVID-19 due to its multifaceted impact on ruminants and the difficulty of preventing contagion. To prevent the spread of EHD, animals and vehicles must be disinfected before they can move from affected areas to EHD-free areas.