BROOKINGS, SD – Two researchers at the Univ. of South Dakota will study a new influenza virus that affects cattle and pigs.

Virologist Feng Li and immunologist Radhey Kaushik will conduct their research through a two-year, $393,530 grant from the National Institutes of Health. Li and Kaushik will examine the genetics, biology and evolution of the virus that has a 50 percent similarity to human influenza.

“The virus has not been shown to be pathogenic in humans,” Kaushik said. “No one should be afraid of this.”

Kaushik and Li will develop genetic and biochemical tools to study the virus, and determine how the virus is transmitted and how it replicates. The goal is to determine whether the virus poses a threat to humans.

Ben Hause, a research assistant professor at Kansas State Univ. uncovered the virus three years ago while working at the Newport Laboratories in Worthington, Minn. The virus was first discovered in pigs, but Hause found the virus is more common in cattle.

“This is important work because so many questions remain to be answered about the virus,” Hause said.
Li noted that the virus shares a common ancestry with other influenza viruses that have caused seasonal epidemics. The virus also has been found in China.