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Funding Announced; The Veterinary Community; Research Results; Research in Progress; Resources; Proposals Invited; From the AVMA

U.S. makes big push to prevent next global pandemic

Recognizing the threat to animal and human health, the federal government has launched a multimillion-dollar initiative in the hopes of preventing the next global pandemic.

The U.S. Agency for International Development announced Oct. 22 the start of its Emerging Pandemic Threats program, a five-pronged approach to preparing the world for emerging infectious diseases. It builds on the agency's long-standing programs in disease surveillance, training, and outbreak response.

The focus of the EPT program is to pre-empt or combat, at their source, newly emerging diseases of animal origin that could threaten human health. The five projects in the EPT program are as follows:

  • • PREDICT: The University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Wildlife Trust, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative are expected to receive funding from USAID of up to $75 million over a five-year span to implement a global early warning system. These five leading experts in wildlife surveillance will monitor for emerging diseases and increase the local capacity in “geographic hot spots” where wildlife host species, such as bats and rodents, have substantial interactions with domestic animals and high-density human populations. The goal is to more broadly address the role of wildlife in facilitating the emergence and spread of new diseases. The award builds on USAID's current monitoring of wild birds for the H5N1 influenza virus.

  • • RESPOND: A coalition of technical resources comprising the Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine; Development Alternatives, Bethesda, Md.; the University of Minnesota's School of Veterinary Medicine; Training and Resources Group, Arlington, Va.; and Ecology and Environment Inc., Chicago, is expected to receive up to $185 million in a five-year cooperative agreement with USAID. The project's aim is to strengthen countries' capacity to identify and respond to new disease outbreaks in a quick and sustainable manner. This will be done by developing outbreak investigation and response training. The agreement adds to the more than 30 years of USAID experience in building long-term capacities in health training through U.S. and local academic institutions.

  • • IDENTIFY: The World Health Organization, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) will work through existing grants to support the development of laboratory networks and strengthen diagnostic capacities in those areas thought most likely to be the source of emerging diseases.

  • • PREVENT: The Academy for Educational Development, Washington, D.C., and Global Viral Forecasting Initiative, San Francisco, would be awarded up to $70 million in a five-year agreement with USAID to build a behavioral-change communication response to infectious diseases and support efforts to characterize high-risk practices that increase the potential for spreading such diseases. From there, the entities will formulate behavioral-change and communication strategies and interventions. This award contributes to ongoing behavioral change and communications efforts by USAID to prevent H5N1 transmission.

  • • PREPARE: The International Medical Corps will provide technical support for simulations and field tests of national, regional, and local pandemic preparedness plans. This is to ensure that countries have the capacity to implement response plans effectively during pandemic events. The project could receive up to $6.65 million within a three-year time frame.

Two years ago, USAID commissioned a National Academy of Sciences expert advisory panel on how to improve and sustain global capacity for surveillance and response to emerging zoonotic diseases. The panel released its report, “Sustaining Global Surveillance and Response to Emerging Zoonotic Diseases,” Sept. 22.

The document calls for the United States to take the lead against global pandemics, working with global health organizations to establish a surveillance system that better integrates the human and animal health sectors, resulting in improved early detection and response. Thus, the EPT program was born.

Preparations continue for education consortium

The North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium has seen further progress with the announcement of more leadership appointments and hires.

In early October, leaders from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges named the consortium's board of directors, who will lead the effort in charting the course of veterinary medical education.

The board comprises members representing education, accreditation, and the licensing and testing arms of veterinary medical education. The board members are as follows:

  • • Dr. Eleanor M. Green, dean of the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine.

  • • Dr. Bennie I. Osburn, dean of the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

  • • Dr. Willie M. Reed, dean of the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine.

  • • Dr. David L. McCrystle, immediate past chair of the AVMA Executive Board.

  • • Dr. Janver D. Krehbiel, past chair of the AVMA Foresight Committee Task Force and an AVMA Executive Board member.

  • • Dr. David E. Granstrom, director of the AVMA Education and Research Division.

  • • Dr. Mike Thomas, past president of the American Animal Hospital Association and member of the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.

  • • Dr. Jonathon E. Betts, past president of the American Association of Veterinary State Boards.

  • • Dr. John Lawrence, president of the Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine and director-at-large for the American Association of Veterinary State Boards.

The nine-member board met the first week of November in Washington, D.C., with AAVMC executive staff and Dr. Mary Beth Leininger, who was appointed project manager in July.

The NAVMEC board looked at developing recommendations concerning governance policies; criteria and procedures of the consortium, including admitting new NAVMEC participants; and drafting the final report to be recommended to the AAVMC leadership. The board also planned to finalize when and where the national meetings would take place.

The consortium, over 12 months, will hold a series of national discussions on several questions related to the future of veterinary education in North America. These include the following:

  • • What is meant by meeting societal needs, and what technical and nontechnical knowledge, skills, and competencies should all new graduates of veterinary medical colleges possess at graduation to ensure those societal needs are met?

  • • What are different educational models that could prepare all new graduates to meet societal needs?

  • • What are the essential principles and relationships between colleges, accreditation, and licensure that will ensure that new graduates meet societal needs?

NAVMEC participants will take part in consortium meetings to discuss and deliberate these issues and make recommendations to the NAVMEC board, which will submit a final plan to the AAVMC leadership.

Invitation letters were sent to 431 organizations. Those invited were asked to join the consortium and participate in the discussions at the national meetings, irrespective of any financial contribution. So far, 164 have said they would participate.

To ensure the process goes smoothly, the AAVMC hired a facilitator—Kenneth J. Andrews, PhD, founder of High Impact Facilitation, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Dr. Andrews assisted in 2007 with the association's Foresight Report, a long-range planning study for academic veterinary medicine.

Researchers study factors that regulate vaccination efficiency

Agricultural Research Service scientists and colleagues have found that a concurrent parasite infection significantly compromises the effectiveness of a commonly administered vaccine in swine.

The study was conducted by researchers at the ARS Diet, Genomics and Immunology Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., led by microbiologist Joseph Urban, working with Nina Steenhard of the Institute for Veterinary Disease Biology of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

For the study, 36 pigs raised on a pathogen-free farm were divided into four groups and studied for nearly three months. The researchers wanted to compare health indicators among three treatment groups and compare them with indicators for an untreated control group.

The three treatment groups included pigs that had been continuously exposed to a common worm infection, pigs that were exposed to the same worm infection but were vaccinated against Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae at week three, and a worm-free group that was similarly vaccinated against the bacteria at week three.

All pigs were infected with live M hyopneumoniae via aerosol four weeks after the vaccine was injected. Four weeks later, the tissues of all pigs were evaluated.

The worm-free, vaccinated pigs infected with M hyopneumoniae tested positive for vaccine-derived antibodies, but only 78 percent of the vaccinated pigs that had been worm-infected developed serum antibodies.

The worm-infected pigs also had a higher percentage of lung lesions, compared with their non-worm–infected counterparts after vaccination and subsequent bacterial exposure.

These findings are an indicator of the importance of parasite control during vaccination. The next step is to conduct field studies in environments where animals are susceptible to both worm and bacterial infection, according to the authors.

The study has been accepted for publication in the journal Vaccine.

Variants in three genes account for most dog coat textures

Variants in three genes acting in combination account for the wide range of coat textures in dogs—from a Poodle's tight curls to a Beagle's stick-straight fur. The findings appeared in the Aug. 27 advance online issue of the journal Science.

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health's National Human Genome Research Institute led a team that scanned single-nucleotide polymorphisms in 1,000 dogs representing 80 breeds.

The researchers found that a variant in the RSPO2 gene results in wiry hair with furnishings such as a beard, mustache, or large eyebrows. A variant in the FGF5 gene led to long, silky or fluffy hair. A variant in the KRT71 gene produces curly coats. A dog with all three variants has a long, curly coat with furnishings.

LSU research could affect care for humans and animals

Respiratory disease studies at Louisiana State University could improve disease treatment and prevention in humans and animals, a university announcement states.

Four faculty members of the School of Veterinary Medicine are performing separate studies on respiratory diseases through $3.8 million in grants, the announcement states. Two of the four researchers are veterinarians.

Dr. Shafiqul I. Chowdhury, a professor in LSU's Department of Pathobiological Sciences, is researching molecular virology and recombinant vaccine technology related to bovine herpesviruses. His work is funded by two Department of Agriculture grants totaling $730,000.

Dr. Samithamby Jeyaseelan, an assistant professor in the Department of Pathobiological Sciences, is studying neutrophil recruitment to the lungs in response to disease-causing bacteria. His laboratory is supported by a $500,000 career development award from the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute, a $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, and a $300,000, two-year supplement to the NIH grant.

Arthur Penn, PhD, a toxicology professor in LSU's Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences and director of the Inhalation Research Facility, is investigating respiratory system responses to major combustion-related air pollution events, such as industrial explosions and forest fires, as well as the involvement of environmental stress in adult chronic disease.

Maria A. Guerrero-Plata, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Pathobiological Sciences, is researching innate immunity, dendritic cells, and the impact of environment on the pathogenesis of respiratory viruses. Her research team is supported through a $488,000 career development award from the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute and a $100,000 research award from the American Thoracic Society.

AAVPT takes charge of drug monographs

The American Academy of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics has become the owner of the Veterinary Clinical Drug Monographs originally belonging to U.S. Pharmacopeia.

The monographs are available at no cost on the AAVPT Web site at www.aavpt.org/DrugMonographs.shtml. The documents provide consensus-based veterinary pharmaceutical information, including approved product-label information and research data along with evidence-ranked, species-specific use recommendations.

Development of the monographs started in 1985 as a collaborative effort of the USP Veterinary Medicine Information Expert Committees and staff within the USP Veterinary Group. Members of the committees included veterinary pharmacologists, clinical pharmacologists, pharmacists, and species experts. The Journal of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics published monographs on anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics in special issues in 2003 and 2004. The USP posted monographs on anthelmintics and certain compounded medications directly to the USP Web site.

The USP has transferred all the existing monographs as well as unpublished evidence tables and monographs in progress to the AAVPT. The AAVPT and the American College of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology are discussing the development of new monographs and revisions of existing monographs.

PRRS research award applications invited

Boehringer Ingelheim is accepting applications for three $25,000 research awards for work to control, manage, or eradicate porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome.

The winners of the Advancement in PRRS Research Award will be announced during the 2010 American Association of Swine Veterinarians annual meeting, which runs March 6-9 in Omaha, Neb.

Graduate students, academic researchers, company researchers, private researchers, and practicing veterinarians are eligible to apply for the awards, with applications due Jan. 1, 2010. For more information on the awards, go to www.prrsresearch.com.

AVMA electronic newsletters offer a wealth of material

The AVMA is extending the reach of its electronic newsletters to all members who want to follow developments relevant to the veterinary profession.

The Association has created a number of electronic publications in recent years and targeted them at audiences such as leadership, veterinary colleges, and state veterinary medical associations. Recently, the AVMA Executive Board moved to share these resources with all members.

Through the AVMA Web site, members can now sign up to receive any or all of these electronic newsletters and can also specify the types of other e-mail messages they want to receive from the Association. As an example, under e-mail preferences, members can sign up to receive alerts about crises in public or animal health. The AVMA e-mailed members with information about H1N1 influenza this year and about the pet food recall in 2007.

The Association's electronic publications include the AVMA News Bulletin, a biweekly production of the JAVMA News staff; AVMA@Work, a monthly letter from the Association's president and executive vice president; AVMA News Bytes, a collection each workday of articles in the mainstream media that are relevant to veterinarians; AVMA Advocate, a monthly newsletter that provides the latest veterinary news from Washington, D.C.; and State Legislative Update, a monthly summary of state legislation and regulations of interest to veterinarians.

Members also can indicate their interest in receiving e-mail on subjects such as the AVMA Political Action Committee, AVMA Congressional Advocacy Network, AVMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams, AVMA policy announcements, American Veterinary Medical Foundation, AVMA Annual Convention, and dues renewal.

To sign up for electronic newsletters and specify e-mail preferences, members should visit www.avma.org/newsletters.