Clinical Connections  –  Summer 2020

RVC Professor with Kennel Cough Expertise helps vital COVID 19 research

Continuing the ongoing and expanding partnership between the RVC and the Francis Crick Institute, Simon Priestnall, Professor of Veterinary Anatomic Pathology at the RVC, has contributed to a significant new piece of research recently published in Science which shows that a protein currently being trialled as a treatment for COVID-19 interferes with the repair of lung tissue.  The findings have been published alongside research from Harvard Medical School, which found that severe COVID-19 patients showed strong expression of this protein in their lungs. The protein, called interferon lambda, signals to surrounding lung cells to switch on anti-viral defences when a virus is detected in the body.  Professor Priestnall used his skills in examining the pathology of respiratory viral infections to support the findings that antiviral interferons can block repair in damaged lungs. The research concluded that this could prolong lung damage and increase the risk of subsequent bacterial infections.

Linking COVID-19 and Kennel Cough

Professor Simon Priestnall and Dr Judy Mitchell lead the RVC’s Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease research group which aims to better understand the causes of ‘kennel cough’. Current research focusses on improved, rapid diagnostic tests and improved epidemiological understanding of the disease complex in rehoming shelters. Discovered in 2003 at the RVC, canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV) is a betacoronavirus of dogs and major cause of canine infectious respiratory disease complex. It is highly infectious and most prevalent in rehoming shelters worldwide where dogs are often closely housed and infections endemic. As the world grapples with the current COVID-19 pandemic, the scientific community is searching for a greater understanding of a novel virus infecting humans, which has many overlapping features with CRCoV in dogs. Similar to other betacoronaviruses, SARS-CoV-2 appears to have crossed the species barrier, most likely from bats, clearly reinforcing the One Health concept. Veterinary pathologists are familiar with coronavirus infections in animals. Now more than ever - this knowledge and understanding, based on many years of veterinary research, could provide valuable answers for our medical colleagues. In a new commentary published in the journal Veterinary Pathology Simon reviews the early RVC-based CRCoV research where seroprevalence, early immune response, and pathogenesis are some of the same key questions being asked by scientists globally during the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The publication is being made freely available because it is COVID-related: Canine Respiratory Coronavirus: A Naturally Occurring Model of COVID-19

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