UMES researchers to aid cattle industry | University of Maryland Eastern Shore Marketing Retarget Pixel

UMES researchers to aid cattle industry

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    PRINCESS ANNE, MD- (July 27, 2020)-Multi-disciplinary researchers at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore have gained funding from the USDA to aid in a method for early detection of bovine herpesvirus type 1 infection in cows, a disease that costs the U.S. cattle industry approximately $3 billion in losses each year. 

    According to Dr. Kimberly Braxton, an assistant professor in UMES’ Department of Agriculture, Food and Resource Sciences and its on-site veterinarian, BHV-1 causes a number of serious complications including an immune suppression called bovine respiratory disease complex.  Early detection, which is not readily available at this time, is vital to the industry for agriculture and commercial purposes.

    “Emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) upon viral infection is a recently investigated topic that holds great promise for early disease detection,” said Dr. Victor Hsia, a professor and chair of UMES’ pharmacy program

    BHV-1 belongs to the family of alphaherpesvirinae, including some human herpesviruses such as Herpes Simplex Virus and Varicella Zoster Virus, Hsia said.  They share similar genomes, structure and infection modes.  A compound, gamma-butyrolactone, was released upon the Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 acute infection and could restrict viral replication, making the first reported discovery that a herpesvirus could trigger the release of VOC from infected cells. The compound, he said, serves as a stress signal for bacteria and could be a potential molecular biomarker for BHV-1.

    “Our central hypothesis is that gamma-butyrolactone is part of the cellular self-defense mechanism against the released virus attaching neighboring cells,” said Dr. Yan Waguespack, a professor in UMES’ Department of Natural Sciences.  “Our goal is to use a combination of biological and chemical tools to identify how the virus modulates the cells to generate the compound during and after infection.”


    The research is funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Capacity Building Grant Program, Grant No. 2019-03291.

    Gail Stephens, agricultural communications and media associate, School of Agricultural & Natural Sciences, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, 410-621-3850,