Scientists from the University of Liverpool are to collaborate with colleagues at the University of Minnesota to investigate the impact of ‘commingling events’ on virus spread in cattle.
The study aims to discover why some people and cattle become infected and sick during commingling events, while some do not.
To investigate this, the group will monitor the spread of a cattle-type coronavirus among commingling cattle. This will involve measuring the immune systems of the cattle, as well as the microbes in their body, in an effort to understand how the differences impact whether cattle get infected or sick.
The focus on commingling as a transmission risk was vital during the recent COVID-19 pandemic, when situations such as mass-gathering events, back-to-school and air travel were restricted to prevent the spread of the virus.
However, commingling events among unfamiliar animals take place regularly during livestock production. These events can be complex and feature many stressors, which impacts animals’ ability to fight disease, while also exposing them to more pathogens.
Much like during the COVID-19 pandemic, virus spread in commingling events has the potential to have global consequences.
The researchers will monitor the spread of the cattle-type coronavirus using metagenomic and immunological data, as well as advanced modeling techniques.
This study into disease transmission will be led by Dr Noelle Noyes, associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine, in a collaborative research team with other US institutions as well as the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences.
It will be funded by a $3.5 million award from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the National Science Foundation, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
The findings are expected to have an immediate effect on livestock husbandry practices, as well as developing an understanding of virus behaviour that may support future research.
Dr Joe Neary, a senior lecturer in livestock health and welfare at the University of Liverpool, said: “We hope to uncover the complex multi-level mechanisms that underlie viral transmission during intensive mixing of unfamiliar calves,
“These new insights will better inform calf husbandry practices to reduce infectious disease transmission risk, particularly where newly mixed calves have been sourced from multiple farms.”
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