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The Virology section at the ADRDL: Supporting diagnostics and research to safeguard animal and public health

(Written by Diego Diel and Fernando Vicosa Bauermann)

Viral diseases are always at the top of the list of important diseases affecting livestock, wildlife, and companion animal species. A talented and experienced group of virologists at SDSU’s Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory supports daily diagnostic investigations for a wide range of viral diseases. 

Several assays are performed by the virology section, with more than 4000 tests run in the first ten months of 2017 alone. Bovine virus isolation is among the most common request, along with Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus (BVDV) and Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis virus (IBR) fluorescent antibody (FA) tests. Assays investigating viral infection in samples from swine, horses, cats, dogs, sheep, and wildlife are also common requests. In addition to routine viral diagnostics, the virology section also provides the service of virus amplification and titration to fulfill the needs of various animal health companies and researchers. While most of the procedures are related to animal health, the section also plays an important role in human health, by testing the largest number of suspect rabies samples in the state.  In this role, the section cooperates with the South Dakota Department of Health and the Department of Game Fish and Parks, as well as the corresponding entities in surrounding states, to monitor wildlife and domestic animals for the presence of rabies virus.  

The ADRDL’s virologists are constantly monitoring the incidence of viral diseases in the region and continually updating available tests in order to better support the public’s needs. The section is currently undergoing proficiency testing with the National Veterinary Services Laboratory to restart fish diagnostics by early 2018. Virus isolation for important fish pathogens such as Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHSV) and Spring Viremia of Carp virus (SVCV) are popular requests from the region’s growing aquaculture industry. Fish testing opens new avenues for diagnostics, research, and could facilitate monitoring viral diseases in the regional fish population.

Currently, the section is developing and validating additional tests for livestock species. The goal is to start offering both virus isolation and FA procedures for Senecavirus A and FA testing for Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus. Both viruses have been associated with significant diseases in swine causing economic losses to producers. For cattle, the primary addition will be virus isolation for bovine coronavirus, an emerging concern among veterinarians and livestock producers. This virus is often detected in calves suffering from respiratory and/or enteric disease.      

The section collaborates with other sections in the ADRDL by maintaining, cataloging, and amplifying stocks of virus for use as reagents in diagnostics and research. The lab also keeps a wide range of primary cells and cell lines that can support assays across numerous species.

The ADRDL’s virology section not only supports the livestock and veterinary communities with diagnostic testing services, but also leads and cooperates with many research projects at SDSU. An exciting, collaborative project is an effort to assess the risk of introducing exotic viral diseases to the US by the importation of contaminated animal feed or animal feed ingredients. A model was developed to evaluate the survival of different viruses in feed ingredients, reproducing the journey of these ingredients from Asia to the US. The virology section was responsible for testing the viability of a select group of viruses in those ingredients. 

Four full-time, experienced virologists and two students oversee and carry out the duties of the virology section at SDSU:

Diego G. Diel, DVM, MS, PhD, Assistant Professor and Section Leader, obtained his doctoral and master degrees in virology at the Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM) in Brazil. Dr. Diel also received post-doctoral training at the USDA’s Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (SEPRL) and at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. He has over 12 years of experience working with many important viruses affecting livestock species, including herpesviruses, poxviruses, paramyxoviruses, orthomyxoviruses, asfarvirus and picornaviruses. Dr. Diel oversees and supports the daily activities of the virology section.

Fernando Vicosa Bauermann, MS, DVM, PhD, Research Associate, obtained his degrees at the Universidade Federal de Santa Maria (UFSM) in Brazil. His PhD training was devoted to the diagnostic and characterization of atypical pestiviruses in ruminants, performing all his studies at the USDA facilities in Ames, Iowa. Following his PhD, worked as a visiting scientist in the USDA for additional two years, before joining the ADRDL in 2016. At SDSU, Fernando oversees and supports the laboratory procedures, and leads the ongoing research projects.

Craig Long, MS, Senior Microbiologist, has a BS degree in microbiology and an MS in biological sciences, both from SDSU.  In addition to his 4 years here, Craig has laboratory experience through internships with the State Health Laboratory in Pierre, as well as work in fermentation and ethanol production.  Prior to starting at the ADRDL, Craig taught introductory biology classes in Brookings and Sioux Falls.  His duties at the lab include fluorescent antibody tests across all species and maintenance of cell cultures for virus isolation.

Martha Ohnstad, MS, Microbiologist, has a B.S. in Biology from Northern State University and an MS. in Biology Microbiology from SDSU. Her research background is in swine viruses (PEDV and PRRSV). Prior to joining the ADRDL in July, Martha was a quality laboratory technician for Bel Brands. Her roles in the virology section are to help restart fish diagnostics, perform routine diagnostics, and assist with research projects.

Student worker Alaine Buysse is a native of Ghent, MN. She is pursuing a degree in animal science following the pre-veterinary medicine track. She is involved on campus as Vice President of the SDSU Pre-Veterinary Club. Alaine has been employed by the ADRDL since April of 2016 and started in the virology lab in November of 2016. Her primary responsibilities include maintaining cell cultures and assisting with diagnostic and research projects. 

Student worker Anna Mohr is a sophomore on campus and has been working at the virology lab since January 2017. Anna is currently pursuing a major in pre-pharmacy with a biology minor, and is involved in many clubs on campus including Jacks Give Back and HEROH. She has been involved in research projects and day-to-day diagnostics.

The staff of the ADRDL’s virology section is willing to help with any questions regarding diagnostic testing for viral diseases.  Contact them at 605-688-5171.