Penn State to study novel coronavirus potential to infect livestock

During the pandemic, the new virus has continued to mutate, and there now are numerous genetic versions of SARS-CoV-2.


Source: Pennsylvania State University

via National Hog Farmer - Sep 10, 2020


A grant from the USDA will enable Pennsylvania State University researchers to study the potential for SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, to infect and spread among livestock.


USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, through its Agricultural and Food Research Initiative, awarded the nearly $1 million grant to a team led by Suresh Kuchipudi, clinical professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences in the College of Agricultural Sciences.


The COVID-19 pandemic remains the most significant public health crisis in the modern era, Kuchipudi notes, and the unprecedented global spread of SARS-CoV-2 could pose a significant risk of exposure to livestock. During the pandemic, the new virus has continued to mutate, and there now are numerous genetic versions of SARS-CoV-2.


"Coronaviruses are prone to mutations introduced by several mechanisms during viral replication," he says. "Cross-host exposures are an important step in the transference of viruses to new hosts, and host-switching events could happen as a result of increased contact between the viruses and these potential new hosts."


Kuchipudi, who also is the associate director of Penn State's Animal Diagnostic Laboratory, explains that in 2002, the first SARS virus infected fewer than 9,000 people but spilled over into pigs.


"That virus did not spread widely and was contained quickly, so there wasn't a major impact to animal agriculture," he says. "However, it demonstrated the ability of SARS viruses to spill over into agricultural animals. Similar spillover events of SARS-CoV-2 into the agricultural system would be disastrous because the U.S. livestock sector plays a critical role in providing a safe and reliable food supply, as well as jobs and other economic benefits."


To investigate the susceptibility of livestock to SARS-CoV-2 and determine if the virus can adapt and spread among agricultural animals, researchers will employ a combination of experimental infection studies using cell cultures and animals. These experiments will take place in a biosafety level 3 environment. The team also will use computer models to assess the chance for the virus to infect livestock species efficiently...