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Weekly News Roundup 4/3 to 4/9

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Pitt team makes progress on possible COVID-19 vaccine

Promising work by a University of Pittsburgh researcher looking into the SARS coronavirus nearly 20 years ago, and the MERS coronavirus six years ago, has led to a potential COVID-19 vaccine that has shown early promise in tests on mice, according to a scientific paper published today. The findings are very early in the process that the research team hopes will lead to a working vaccine—which they have dubbed PittCoVacc—for the deadly disease that has killed thousands and shut down large swaths of the planet in an attempt to stop the spread. . . . more

University of Florida–inspired cooperative brings virtual rounds to veterinary students at several campuses

Alex Fox-Alvarez, DVM, an assistant professor of small animal surgery at the University of Florida (UF) College of Veterinary Medicine, has a reputation for taking innovative approaches to teaching. So when COVID-19 safety measures implemented at UF meant fourth-year veterinary students were suddenly released from clinics on March 17 and faculty members needed to convert course content into an online format within one week, Fox-Alvarez turned a challenge into an opportunity for creative problem-solving. “I wanted to make sure that my rounds included the elements of clinics that students would miss out on while away from the UF Small Animal Hospital,” Fox-Alvarez said. . . . more

LSU adds fencing to Mike the Tiger habitat to protect mascot from coronavirus

Louisiana State University has placed barriers about six feet from Mike the Tiger’s habitat in an effort to protect the live mascot from the coronavirus. The additional fencing created about 10 feet of space between Mike and people who visit the tiger. LSU added the barricades on Tuesday. They cover the chain link fence portions of the habitat, stopping when the walls turn to glass. “The fans, I know they want us to do the best for him and make sure he’s well cared for,” said a spokeswoman for the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure that happens.” . . . more

Tackling COVID-19 with the help of the virus that causes kennel cough in dogs

Scientists have long been using viruses to deliver gene therapies or vaccines. Now, researchers at the University of Iowa and the University of Georgia are suggesting a virus that causes kennel cough in dogs could be used to construct vaccines against the novel coronavirus behind COVID-19. In a study published in the journal mBio, the researchers showed that their vaccine, which is based on the parainfluenza virus 5 (PIV5) that’s believed to cause the canine respiratory disease, protected all mice from the lethal Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) virus. . . . more

Pet fostering takes off as coronavirus keeps Americans home

The Simeon family was heading home to Omaha from a Smoky Mountains vacation when Kim Simeon spotted a social media post from the Nebraska Humane Society pleading with people to consider fostering a pet amid concerns about how the coronavirus would affect operations. A day later, a 1½-year-old black lab mix named Nala was nestling in at her home. Nala is one of 35 dogs and cats who have been placed with Omaha-area families as part of an emergency foster care program. “I just felt like, with all the virus stuff going on, it just seemed like a need we could help with,” Simeon said. “We’re all quarantined anyway. I mean, what a perfect opportunity to do something good.” Amid an avalanche of bad news, Simeon’s story and thousands like it across the country are prompting smiles as suddenly isolated people rush to care for animals, easing a burden on shelters and providing homes—even if just temporarily—for homeless dogs, cats, and other pets. . . . more