Rapid Detection of Incursions of SARS-CoV-2 and Novel Coronaviruses on Texas’ Meat and Dairy Farms
PI - Gregory C. Gray, MD, MPH, University of Texas Medical Branch

In this 5-year, One Health-oriented, prospective research project we will study 16 Texas livestock farms (pigs, cattle, or poultry) for SARS-CoV-2 and other circulating coronaviruses using our pan-species coronavirus assay. Questionnaire data (farm and livestock workers) and samples will be collected every four months for one year from the farm environment, the farm livestock, and the livestock workers. In between the four farm visits, we will use postage-paid sample kits to collect and ship nasal/oral swabs from livestock or livestock workers with signs of respiratory illness to UTMB. In year 3 of the study, we will field-test on farms a pan-coronavirus assay developed by GeneCapture, Inc. We will intensively study novel coronaviruses with culture, full genome assembly and reverse genetics. Overall, this study aims to develop effective and cost-efficient methods for the rapid detection of SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses on livestock farms. Summary surveillance data and novel pre-pandemic coronavirus detections will be shared with the National Animal Health Laboratory Network for further assessment. We expect to demonstrate that this rather low cost, One Health surveillance approach to farm biosecurity will serve as a model for pre-pandemic pathogen detection and have potential for widespread adoption. Additionally, in support of this work, we will offer practical virology training to up to 40 minority undergraduate students from Galveston College over the five years of research.

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