K-State’s Biosecurity Research Institute is already getting a jump start on some of the research planned for NBAF.
The biosafety level-3 facility is studying four NBAF diseases: Japanese encephalitis, Rift Valley fever, classical swine fever and African swine fever.
Rift Valley Fever
Rift Valley Fever is an acute, fever-causing viral disease most commonly observed in domesticated animals such as cattle, with the ability to spread to humans through mosquitoes, aerosols and body fluids – for example, during slaughter and meat processing – according to the Centers for Disease Control. The disease commonly affects livestock, causing abortions, and is found in Africa.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, the fever is a major disease of concern. At present, there are no suitable countermeasures if a U.S. outbreak occured.
In 2014, BRI began doing the first U.S. studies in livestock since 1987.
The virus is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable encephalitis in Asia and the western Pacific, according to the CDC. For most travelers to Asia, the risk is very low but varies based on destination, duration of travel, season and activities. The virus is maintained in a cycle involving mosquitoes and vertebrate hosts, mainly pigs and wading birds. People can be infected when bitten by an infected mosquito. BRI is doing the first experiments using currently circulating strains of the virus to test in North American mosquitoes since the 1940s.
Classical Swine Fever
Classical swine fever, also known as hog cholera, is a highly contagious viral disease in swine that is often fatal, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The fever was eradicated from the United States in 1978 after a 16-year effort by the industry and state and federal governments. The department notes improved countermeasures against the fever are needed.
African Swine Fever
African swine fever is a highly contagious hemorrhagic disease of pigs. Infected hogs have high mortality rates and effective countermeasures are not available for infected animals, according to the DHS. At present, no vaccines are available to prevent infection and no treatment exists.
Meanwhile, BRI is also doing a variety of other studies. Scientists have studied about 20 foodborne, plant and animal diseases since the facility opened about a decade ago. Diseases studied include porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, Zika and avian influenza.
Other studies with a potential threat to Kansas agriculture:
Wheat blast - BRI scientists are studying wheat blast - a pathogen that in the past has wiped out crops in Brazil. It has recently been introduced into Bangladesh and India and is a potential threat to worldwide wheat production. BRI has been researching wheat blast since 2009, including collaborative projects with Australia, a country where the research isn’t allowed. At present, researchers are looking at plants that are resistant to wheat blast.
Food safety - BRI scientists are also looking at the distribution of E. Coli on meat and carcasses. Among the research is the ability to detect and identify contamination before anyone gets sick. Previous studies include research with anthrax.