UMD Researchers Awarded $1.6 Million to Fight Flu in Pigs

UMD Researchers Awarded $1.6 Million to Fight Flu in Pigs

Researchers from the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) will soon test a cutting-edge approach for eradicating the most ancient disease known to mankind – influenza – thanks to a $1.6 million grant awarded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Led by Bhanu Telugu, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, the research team will use advanced genome editing technologies to engineer flu resistance in pigs and prevent the flu from spreading to other pigs and to humans, who can contract the virus from swine. Scientists will do this by deleting receptors in the pigs’ genetic codes to block the virus’ entry and inserting what are called “decoy” genes to prevent the disease from replicating.

“This serves as a dual mechanism for protecting the pigs from viral infection and transmission to human and pig hosts,” explains Telugu. “It’s a double-whammy on the virus.”

An influenza outbreak in commercial swine herds, such as the pandemic of 2009, can quickly spread across the globe and economically devastate the pork industry. Meanwhile, seasonal influenza in humans leads to an estimated $11 billion in direct and indirect costs every year in the United States alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Although recorded evidence of the flu dates all the way back to Greek philosopher Hippocrates, who died in 370 B.C., scientists have yet to defeat the disease, only to vaccinate against it. Telugu is hopeful he and his team can use the domestic pig as a model for fighting the flu in humans and other species.

“Our argument is if we are to eliminate this disease, we have to go after the source – in this case, the pig,” says Telugu.

The five-year study will be conducted at the Animal Bioscience and Biotechnology Laboratory, a building jointly owned by the University of Maryland and the USDA and one of only a handful around the world equipped with the biomedical tools necessary for this type of research. The UMD team was one of just six awarded a NIFA grant from a pool of approximately 170 applicants.

September 9, 2014


Prev   Next

Current Headlines

Study: Criminal Penalties for Drug Use During Pregnancy Deter Women From Treatment

Majority Party Rules? Maybe Not

Track Changes—in Space

"Their Stories Have Not Been Told"

Dean of UMD's Clark School of Engineering Elected to National Academy of Engineering

Scientists Develop First Fabric to Automatically Cool or Insulate Depending on Conditions

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Youth Twice as Likely to End Up in U.S. Foster Care

Toxic Pesticides on the Rise in Our Food

News Resources

Return to Newsroom

Search News

Archived News

Events Resources

Events Calendar

Additional Resources

UM Newsdesk

Faculty Experts

Connect

social iconstwitterlinkedinrssYouTube
Division of Research
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742-1541

Email: vpr@umd.edu
© Copyright 2017 University of Maryland

Did You Know

UMD is a member of the Association of American Universities, comprised of 61 leading research universities in the U.S. & Canada.