Grant to Improve Poultry Production Worldwide

USAID awards second phase of funding to Genomics to Improve Poultry Innovation Lab 

By Diane Nelson

Throughout Africa, chickens are vital to family nourishment, income and food security. But African poultry production is threatened by an extremely virulent Newcastle disease virus that can decimate entire flocks within days.

UC Davis Animal Science Professor Huaijun Zhou with white leghorn chickens at a UC Davis facility. Zhou uses genetic and genomic techniques to breed chickens that are more resistant to disease and heat stress for developing world farmers. (Gregory Urquiaga)

Six Takeaways from the International One Health Congress

By Tracey Goldstein

I recently returned from the 2018 International One Health Congress(#IOHC) in beautiful Saskatoon, Canada. Insight, inspiration and networking were in abundance at the biennial conference, which drew more than 800 participants from 60 countries to hear renowned experts and researchers in One Health. It was a privilege to share the work of the UC Davis One Health Institute (OHI) and PREDICT.

Back in my office, many IOHC sessions and conversations remain top of mind. Here are my key takeaways:

Zika Virus May Pose Greater Threat Of Miscarriages Than Previously Thought

26 Percent Of Nonhuman Primates Lost Pregnancies Despite Not Showing Symptoms

By AJ Cheline

Research from several institutions, including the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis, suggests that more women could be losing their pregnancies to the Zika virus without knowing they are infected.

The study, published in Nature Medicine July 2, found 26 percent of nonhuman primates infected with Zika during early stages of pregnancy experienced miscarriage or stillbirth even though the animals showed few signs of infection.

Young monkeys

Non-human primates such as these Rhesus macaques have similar brain development and reproductive physiology to humans, making them a good model to study Zika virus infection. (Photo by K. West, CNPRC)

Targeted Action Group Marks 20 Years in Fight Against HIV/AIDS

By Larkin Callaghan

A recent meeting at UC Davis marked 20 years of effort towards a vaccine for HIV/AIDS. When the Targeted Action Group on Vaccines was founded twenty years ago, the HIV epidemic was in a very different place – politically, socially, scientifically, and emotionally. Known as TAG, this program has brought together researchers, students, advocates, and industry, who are invested in and working towards an HIV vaccine.

“Insect Allies” Enlisted to Protect Maize Crops from Pests

Researchers at UC Davis, the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) at Cornell University, the University of Minnesota and Iowa State University have received a four-year, $10.3 million “Insect Allies” award from the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to engineer viruses carried by insects  that can help in combatting disease, drought, and other yield-reducing stresses in maize.

Corn leaf aphids feeding on maize. The VIPER “Insect Allies” project funded by DARPA will study using viruses carried by such insects to make mature maize plants resistant to pests. Photo by Meena Haribal.

Control of Dengue Fever With Bacteria-Infected Mosquitoes

Virus-suppressing Bacteria Could Control Transmission by Mosquitoes

Mosquitos infected with the bacteria Wolbachia are significantly worse vectors for dengue virus, but how to establish and spread Wolbachia in an urban mosquito population is unclear. A study published May 30 in the open access journal PLOS Biology shows that over time, strategic releases of mosquitoes infected with the dengue-suppressing bacteria may be enough to allow the virus-resistant insects to spread across large cities.

Leading the work are Professor Michael Turelli, UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, and colleagues from Scott O’Neill’s “Eliminate Dengue Program” based at Monash University, Melbourne.

UC Davis Veterinary Student Shares in Zika Virus Discoveries

By Pat Bailey

Hannah Laurence, a third-year student in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute fellow, had the privilege of doing biomedical research during the past year in the laboratory of Professor Jeff Kieft at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Vet student with horse

UC Davis veterinary student Hannah Laurence studied Zika virus through a HHMI fellowship.

Recently, the Kieft lab announced in the journal Science discovery of the molecular process used by the Zika virus to “hijack” the cells that it infects and potentially how the virus makes molecules that are directly linked to disease.

Microbe studies zoom in on effects of HIV in the gut

By Pat Bailey

The curtain cloaking how AIDS and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) impact the human digestive and immune systems has been drawn back a bit further, thanks to a team of researchers from UC Davis’ departments of Food Science and Technology and Medical Microbiology and Immunology.

The small intestine­ is extremely difficult to study because of its location in the body but plays a critical role in human health. Its inner lining offers both a portal for absorbing nutrients and a barrier against toxins or invasive microbes.

UC Davis entomologists on the trail of virus-carrying mosquito

Aedes aegypti, a daytime-biting mosquito that predominantly feeds on humans, has spread to at least seven counties since June 2013, according to UC Davis medical entomologist Anthony Cornel of the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Parlier, and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Aedes aegypti carries yellow fever, Zika and other viruses. (CDC photo)

Aedes aegypti carries yellow fever, Zika and other viruses. (CDC photo)

“It’s an issue of great concern, especially as current control methods do not appear to be working well,” said Cornel, who does research on the mosquito in Clovis, Fresno County, where it was discovered in June 2013. Simultaneously, the insect was found in the cities of Madera and San Mateo.

Hepatitis virus-like particles as potential cancer treatment

UC Davis researchers have developed a way to use the empty shell of a Hepatitis E virus to carry vaccines or drugs into the body. The technique has been tested in rodents as a way to target breast cancer, and is available for commercial licensing through UC Davis Office of Research.

Hepatitis E virus is feco-orally transmitted, so it can survive passing through the digestive system, said Marie Stark, a graduate student working with Professor Holland Cheng in the UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cell Biology.