Animal Disease

VirusesRespiratory Diseases: These continue to be a major welfare and economic concern to livestock producers. Respiratory diseases in general are multifactorial. Co-infection of animal with more than one respiratory etiologic agent is common and often results in increased clinical signs when compared to single agent infections. While many studies are being conducted to evaluate the contribution of the pathogen and host immune status, another factor that has been overlooked is the microbiome (or total microbial community including viruses, bacteria and microeukaryotes which inhabit the avian respiratory tract). Considering the co-evolution of a pathogen with its host environment, the characteristics of the respiratory microbiome impact both susceptibility and disease outcome. CFAH scientists work closely with industry and state government officials to detect emerging respiratory pathogens and provide rapid diagnostic service including detailed molecular and biologic studies to assess the potential threat of the pathogens to animals and human. Our efforts include investigating the multifactorial etiology involving respiratory diseases and developing improved diagnostic tools, vaccines, and novel preventive measures.

Immunosuppressive Diseases: The immune system of animals works to clear microbial infections. Some microbes, however, infect the cells of the immune system itself, leading to immunosuppression, a condition characterized by a reduction of immune system function. Animals that survive can be left permanently immune suppressed and are more susceptible to secondary infections. They also exhibit a decreased response to vaccinations which are critical for the control of many diseases. Immunosuppressive diseases may be subclinical and go unnoticed. Therefore, the true economic impact of immunosuppressive diseases in food producing animals is difficult to estimate because subclinical immune suppression can exacerbate disease caused by opportunistic microorganisms that normally would not be pathogenic in a healthy host.

Enteric Diseases: Viral gastroenteritis is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in children and neonates worldwide and an important pathogen in young animals. Recurrent enteric infections affect intestinal absorption, nutrition, and intestinal microbiome, ultimately modulating immunity and overall health. Efficient vaccines against enteric viruses are often unavailable or failing due to difficulties in induction of lasting mucosal immune response. Therefore, development of the strategies to beneficially manipulate the immune response and to control enteric infections requires a systematic approach. Integration of studies evaluating disease pathogenesis, pathogen epidemiology, associated changes in the microbiome and immunomodulation by environmental factors and nutrients is of utmost importance. We conduct diagnostic and epidemiological studies to detect and characterize endemic or emerging enteric pathogens of animals and to evaluate their potential for zoonotic spread. CFAH scientists use gnotobiotic (Gn) pig model to study human and animal enteric disease pathogenesis and immune responses to design vaccines and interventions. Specifically, we study the interactions among nutrients, probiotics, maternal immune factors and the intestinal microbiome, and their combined impacts on the neonatal innate immunity and protection against enteric infections. Our goal is to combine manifold approaches to understand host-pathogen interactions and to prevent, intervene or optimally manage enteric viral infections.

VaccinesVaccines: Vaccination is the most viable mitigation strategy to reduce suffering of humans and animals from infectious and zoonotic diseases. So far we are successful in effective control of a few diseases through vaccination, and unsuccessful against many vaccine-preventable diseases. To improve the health of humans and food animals and achieve economic growth in the area of agriculture and food production, control of existing, emerging and reemerging diseases through development and use of effective vaccines is critical. Difficulties in developing effective vaccines against most of the pathogens have been attributed to highly mutagenic nature of the organisms (RNA viruses) and mechanisms adapted by pathogens to evade the host immune system. Therefore, development of innovative vaccine technologies, immune potentiators, adjuvants, and discovery of alternate vaccine delivery platforms through extensive research are highly warranted to improve the global food production and human health.