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UB researchers win biosafety award

David Pawlowski accepts the Richard C. Knudsen Publication Award at ABSA International's 60th Annual Biological Safety Conference. Presenting the award is Janet Peterson, assistant director and biosafety officer for the University of Maryland Departent of Environmental Safety.

By JASON HOWALD

Published November 6, 2017

Four UB researchers have been recognized by ABSA International (The Association for Biosafety and Biosecurity) for a risk assessment study of a virus found in laboratory mice.

David Pawlowski, biosafety officer in Environment, Health and Safety; Robert Zivadinov, professor of neurology and director of the Buffalo Neuroimaging Analysis Center; and PhD students Claire Modica and Michelle Sudyn received the association’s Richard C. Knudsen Publication Award. The Knudsen Award honors an article published in the journal Applied Biosafety that reports a significant contribution in scientific investigation and/or health and safety.     

The virus the researchers studied, Theiler’s murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV), poses no threat to humans but can easily spread among mice. The UB study examined the containment of this virus and how it relates to biosafety.

“We wanted to know if TMEV could be shed by the mice when inoculated intra-cerebrally,” Pawlowski says.

In this process, known as viral shedding, the infected host excretes the virus through natural bodily functions — via saliva or fecal matter — which allows the virus to be passed on to a new host.    

In this case, viral shedding would mean the TMEV had escaped the mouse’s central nervous system. The researchers hypothesized that if the virus escaped the central nervous system, it would be found in the mouse’s blood or in other bodily secretions, meaning the mouse would be contagious.

To start the assessment, the researchers injected the virus into the mice intra-cerebrally, or into their brains. After conducting the risk assessment and gathering data, the scientists found that no viral shedding had occurred, indicating the mice are not contagious when the virus is injected into their brains.  It also shows that this method is an appropriate bio-containment process.