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  Home > Applied Research and Outcomes > ICZIRC


International Cooperative Zoonotic Influenza Research Center

In close collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the University of Minnesota and its partners in the United States and Thailand established the International Cooperative Zoonotic Influenza Research Center (ICZIRC). The need for the Center grew out of the increasing interactions among humans, livestock, poultry, and wildlife which have resulted in the emergence of zoonotic diseases, including diseases caused by influenza viruses.

Principal Investigator: Jeff B. Bender, DVM, MS, DACVPM
Funding Agency: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

ICZIRC's overarching goal was to gain a better understanding of influenza viruses and the threat they pose to human health. ICZIRC and its partners conducted several research projects focusing on bird, pig, and human influenza ("flu") transmission at the human-animal interface. Enclosed are some of the recent publications resulting from this work.
  1. Characterization of Influenza A outbreaks in Minnesota swine herds and measures taken to reduce risk of zoonotic transmission. Beaudoin A, Johnson S, Davies P, Bender J, Gramer M. (published on-line Zoonosis Pub Health, 2011)
  2. Prevalence of avian influenza and biosecurity practices in backyard poultry flocks Donahue JG, Coleman LA, McGraw PJ, Irving SA, Bender JB, Lauer DC, Belongia EA. (published Zoonosis Pub Health 2011)
  3. Prevalence of low-pathogenic avian influenza and evaluation of management practices in Minnesota backyard poultry flocks.Yendell SJ, Rubinoff I, Lauer D, Bender JB, Scheftel J. (published on-line Zoonosis Pub Health 2011)
  4. Serologic survey for swine workers for exposure to H2N3 swine influenza A. Beaudoin A, Gramer M, Gray G, Capuano A, Setterquist S, Bender J. J of Influenza and other Respiratory Viruses 2010;4:163-170.

ICZIRC Partners and studies

Minnesota Department of Health: Minnesota Backyard Poultry

Dr. Joni Scheftel (Principal Investigator)

The Minnesota Department of Health's backyard poultry study will establish an estimate of the prevalence of low-pathogenic avian influenza (AI) virus infections in backyard flocks within Minnesota. The group will determine whether evidence of cross-species transmission exists by testing flocks and owners of any flocks that test positive. The team will also characterize the epidemiology of Minnesota backyard flocks, as well as owner management practices, including biosecurity strategies and use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

To date, the group has tested 46 flocks; all have been negative for AI. Two low-pathogenic H6N1 positive flocks have been identified through slaughter surveillance. One flock owner who tested positive along with three control participants have submitted blood samples for H6, H5, H7, and H9 serology. The group continues to test more flocks and interview additional flock owners.

Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation: Avian Influenza Transmission to Backyard Poultry Flock Owners in Wisconsin

Dr. Ed Belongia (Principal Investigator)

The Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation is testing backyard poultry flock owners and their birds in central Wisconsin to determine the prevalence of low-pathogenic avian influenza (AI) transmission from poultry to humans. The study group began by collecting information on management and disease-prevention practices from flock owners, as well as health and demographic information from both the flock owners and the birds. Researchers also tested the birds and humans for AI antibodies and monitored them for subsequent illness.

All of the enrolled flocks tested negative for avian influenza antibodies at the beginning of the study, and none developed an AI illness during the follow-up period. Nasal and throat swabs were obtained from flock handlers during episodes of acute respiratory illness. Three samples were positive for influenza A, but subtyping indicated that they were human strains. No episodes of avian influenza infection were identified in flock handlers. Serum samples were collected for measurement of antibodies to avian subtypes, and results are expected in 2009. Survey responses indicated that use of protective equipment was rare among backyard poultry flock handlers.

Vaccine Research Group Mayo Clinic College of Medicine: Avian Influenza Viruses in Migratory Waterfowl and Evidence of Human Exposure

Dr. Greg Poland (Principal Investigator)

The goal of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine is twofold: to better understand the epidemiology and prevalence of avian influenza (AI) strains circulating in migratory waterfowl and their surrounding environment in an urban center (Silver Lake in Rochester, Minnesota); and to perform a cross-section seroprevalence study on humans who have regular or sustained contact with these waterfowl and the Silver Lake environment.

Thus far the group has sampled 182 birds and 98 humans, from rowers to nearby landowners to people who feed the birds. All of the birds tested negative for AI. The Minnesota Department of Health is performing PRC-assays for AI subtypes H4 through H16 on the human blood samples. The research group is also collecting water samples from Silver Lake to look for evidence of the virus.

University of Minnesota: Personal Protective Equipment and Hygiene Practices

Dr. Pete Raynor (Principal Investigator)

The University of Minnesota study group will characterize and quantify the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and hygiene practices employed by backyard poultry farmers and swine production employees. Researchers hope to quantify the importance of PPE and examine the barriers that prevent people from adopting these disease-prevention measures. The group will also develop tools to assess the preparedness of organizations that would be charged with responding to a high-pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in wild bird populations if one were to occur.

University of Minnesota: Transmission of Influenza A Viruses Between Pigs and Humans

Dr. Peter Davies (Principal Investigator)

The University of Minnesota swine study group is looking at transmission of influenza A viruses between swine and swine operation employees. Working from the hypothesis that influenza viruses occur between pigs and workers in swine facilities, the study group will strive to better understand the occurrence and impact of swine influenza viruses (SIV) infections on swine production facilities by following-up with veterinarians who send SIV-positive samples to the Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. The research team is also working to detect and characterize influenza A viruses from workers and pigs within production facilities with outbreaks of influenza-like illnesses.

So far the team has collected 77 surveys from 37 veterinarian. These surveys detail the types of operation, illnesses within these operations and among workers in the facilities, and workers' use of personal protective equipment. The group is continuing to conduct surveys with veterinarians reporting SIV-positive samples.

University of Iowa Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases: Swine Influenza at State and County Fairs

Dr. Greg Gray (Principal Investigator)

Because birds and swine often exchange influenza, and swine influenza viruses can be transmitted to humans, the University of Iowa's Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases (CEID) is conducting a study of up to 300 adults and children who participate in state and county fair swine shows. The research group will conduct surveys and collect samples for testing. The study's goals are to: determine the prevalence of swine influenza virus (SIV) carriage among pigs at state and county fairs; identify the level of swine exposure and human behaviors that increase risk of human infection; and determine the relative proportion of febrile respiratory illnesses among study participants that are due to SIV.

Thus far of the 51 show pigs screened during 2008, none were carrying SIV. Human seralogic assays are thus unremarkable. The group's next step is to continue enrollment during the 2009 fair season.

Chulalongkorn University: Suphanburi Province Risk-Based Virus Transmission and PPE Use

Dr. Chitr Sitthi-Amorn (Principal Investigator)

Chulalongkorn University has designed a case study to compare cross-species influenza virus transmission in two high-risk areas (defined as having had at least three avian influenza outbreaks since 2003) and two low-risk areas, all within central Thailand's Suphanburi province. To look for evidence of flu transmission, the study group will collect samples from humans who come into close contact with animals primarily via their work. Researchers will also collect samples from animals to look for evidence of the virus. Samples will be collected from backyard chickens, animals at live bird markets, fighting cocks, ducks, swine, dogs, and cats. Researchers are also collecting samples for virus isolation from ponds and rice paddies in two villages, selected due to their large number of migratory birds and grazing ducks.

The Chulalongkorn University team is also conducting interviews with people in Suphanburi province to identify what barriers prevent them from using personal protective equipment (PPE). Researchers will assess how the perception of risk affects PPE use and recommend ways to improve compliance. Additionally, a follow-up survey is planned to explore whether PPE awareness and behaviors are similar throughout the province.



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