By Alisa Boswell-Gore
Oklahoma State University molecular biologists recently received a nearly $ 500,000 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture for research that has the potential to save the cattle industry millions of dollars.
Bovine Respiratory Disease (FRG) costs the beef industry $ 540 million in direct costs and $ 5 billion in indirect costs each year. The viral disease can be caused when bovine herpes virus 1 (BoHV-1) infects the upper respiratory tract of cattle.
Previous studies have shown the BoHV-1 virus and live modified vaccines to be a major cause of abortion in cattle, according to Clint Jones, molecular virus pathobiologist and Sitlington professor of infectious diseases at OSU’s division of veterinary pathobiology. He added that a synthetic drug called corticosteroid dexamethasone (DEX) also reactivates BoHV-1 and possibly BRD.
Research has also shown that BRD is transmitted when the disease enters its latency cycle. Scientists discovered that in calves infected with the disease, compared to uninfected calves, there is a signaling pathway that controls the BRD cell responses.
Peter Hoyt, OSU Ag Research Professor and Director of the OSU Center for Genomics and Proteomics, will work with nucleic acids in living cells (RNA) to understand how this pathway works and why additional newly discovered pathways in bovine cells are more active in the latency of viral disease . The project includes extensive analyzes of how the virus genes and proteins work during latency and during induction outside of latency, and how the neurons of a cow react simultaneously to the BRD virus contained therein.
Jones and Hoyt hypothesize that a lifelong, dormant infection is actively sustained by the latent virus, which controls a specialized neuron survival mechanism in cattle.
“Previously it was assumed that a latent virus was inactive,” said Hoyt. “Instead, the new data suggests that the virus is doing something to prevent the cell it lives in from dying – and preventing the virus’ house from collapsing.”
Cattle herpes vaccines do not have a high success rate because they do not kill latent viruses, according to Jones, who said that currently all commercially available modified BoHV-1 live vaccines maintain latency and reactivate out of latency.
“Completion of these studies will provide detailed insights into the mechanism by which latency is maintained by viral and cellular factors,” he said. “These studies will also uncover new and innovative strategies for vaccine development.”
In other words, research has the potential to develop more effective vaccines that could prevent the virus from spreading, saving ranchers the cost of treating the disease or losing cattle. Jones and Hoyt also hope their research has the potential to help treat other neurodegenerative diseases.
Boswell-Gore is a communications specialist for Oklahoma State University’s Agricultural Communications Services.