Farm Food Facts

Talking with Dr. Mark Jackwood, Molecular Virologist, about Coronavirus in Poultry

March 31, 2020 USFRA Episode 70
Farm Food Facts
Talking with Dr. Mark Jackwood, Molecular Virologist, about Coronavirus in Poultry
Farm Food Facts
Talking with Dr. Mark Jackwood, Molecular Virologist, about Coronavirus in Poultry
Mar 31, 2020 Episode 70

Our guest this week is Dr. Mark Jackwood, Molecular Virologist and Professor at the University of Georgia. His primary area of research is the study of coronaviruses in poultry. Today, he is sharing with us what his thirty plus years of research has uncovered with how this virus works, why it isn’t transmitted from domestic animals to humans and what the future holds with possible treatments.

Show Notes Transcript

Our guest this week is Dr. Mark Jackwood, Molecular Virologist and Professor at the University of Georgia. His primary area of research is the study of coronaviruses in poultry. Today, he is sharing with us what his thirty plus years of research has uncovered with how this virus works, why it isn’t transmitted from domestic animals to humans and what the future holds with possible treatments.

Phil:   0:01
Farm Food Facts. Where every former every acre and every voice matter.  Welcome to Farm Food Facts for Wednesday, April 1st 2020. I'm your host Phil Lempert. This is probably the most serious April Fool's Day in my entire life as we're faced as a nation with one of the most serious epidemics in our lives. Many of their farmers are in the fields preparing their crops for spring.  And let me assure you they're committed to ensuring that this year's harvest will produce affordable, sustainable and accessible foods, which are the backbone of our economy. As we've seen in our supermarkets over the past few weeks, we're also seeing an extraordinary effort from our farmers and ranchers working together and coordinating their efforts to fill the supply chain. Consumers air confused and now, more than ever, we need to hear from the experts. Dr. Mark Jackwood is one of those experts, and one of the most asked questions from consumers is whether Cove it 19 can be transmitted to humans from animals. Beginning this week, we will also be giving a hashtag virtual high five to those who were entrusted with getting our foods from farm to table and who are making a difference right now and deserve a huge thank you. Today's hashtag virtual high five goes to Dr Mark Jackwood and you'll soon hear why.  Dr Jackwood is the Jr Glisten professor of Avian medicine and head of the Department of Population Health in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia. He is a molecular virologist, and his primary area of research is the study of respiratory viruses. I can think of no one more qualified to answer this question and give us the explanation of what the real situation is. Dr. Jack would welcome to farm food fax

Mark:   2:01
My pleasure.

Phil:   2:02
So tell us a little bit about your search with this disease that we're seeing in birds. Are we, Are we to the point where we should be very concerned about the Coronavirus in poultry and another livestock?

Mark:   2:18
Uh, well, we've been studying Coronaviruses and birds for over 30 years and particularly infectious virus. And right now Ah, and there's your scientific reasons for this does not appear that the domestic animals livestock, your poultry are involved in this friend of this disease.

Phil:   2:38
That's that's great. Um you know what air? What's the most important things that you've learned that you can translate, you know, from from the human outbreak around the world to help solve this problem?

Mark:   2:52
Sure, so one of the things that we know about this virus is being a Coronavirus. It's fairly easy to kill. So soap and water disinfectants obviously hand sanitizer. Those kind of things are easy to kill it. It doesn't last very long in the environment, although some of the studies that have come out recently for covid-19 shows that it can last for days, which is not unusual for Coronaviruses in certain situations. One of the things that we've learned with working with Corona viruses and birds is thes virus is this. Disease is really, really difficult to control without a vaccine. It's just that transmissible

Phil:   3:31
And we don't have a vaccine

Mark:   3:32
Yet. Not for covid-19. No, right, You know, bio security. What we are calling Social Distance e with the covid-19 we call bio security and the poultry industry. And in many other food animal production industries, it's not enough to keep the virus out. It's it's that infectious. So without a vaccine. This code 19 is gonna be very, very difficulty to control, and it's certainly we're not going to stop it.

Phil:   4:00
So from what I've read and again, I'm not a scientist. So pardon me of home if I'm sounding dumb here. But from what I read, it started with a bath in China. That's correct. Correct?

Mark:   4:14
Yes, that that is. What folks are finding right now is that in fact, you know, and that was an easy call because that's have been found to be the reservoir form a 1,000,000 Coronaviruses.

Phil:   4:26
Okay, so why Why does it get limited two bats and not to poultry or or other animals?

Mark:   4:36
So there's thousands of species of bats and they harbor.

Phil:   4:41
Don't tell me that that scares

Mark:   4:43
It's true.

Phil:   4:45
I don't want to

Mark:   4:46
As many or more different Coronaviruses. 1,000,000 Corona viruses are the alpha and beta corona viruses, the Bird Coronavirus. There are the gamma corona viruses, so now the member alien Coronaviruses. They use certain cell receptors that are unique to mammals, which birds don't have. The the covid-19 virus uses the same cell receptor and the cell receptor is the protein on the surface of the host cell that allows the virus to get into and infect the person or the animal. So the covid-19 virus uses the same ice to human receptor that SARS Corona bars used. And those receptors are, believe it or not very similar. The human receptor is very similar to the receptors in back, so that's being this natural reservoir of all these different krone. Virus's not a very big jump to go from, ah, back Corona virus into an intermediate host and then to a human. The thing about covid-19 is yeah, the bachelor of probably the reservoir. And there's evidence that there's some very closely related back Coronaviruses to covid-19. We have yet to identify an intermediate host,

Phil:   5:57
so I know that you're responsible for the development of a bunch of vaccines that used in commercial poultry. Do any of those prevent the poultry from getting covid-19 or this is the work that you're doing right now?

Mark:   6:14
Well, okay, so first of all this this back up a minute, and poultry and other livestock and pets are likely not infected with covid-19. They're not involved in the transmission of this virus to humans stars When that was when we actually tried experimentally to infect poultry, we could not do it because the receptors in birds just aren't there for this particular virus. So to say that you know that the virus is, you know, involved in any of our livestock is it's a misnomer that that's not true. There's no real threat from our patter from livestock and poultry or transmission of the covid-19 virus.

Phil:   6:52
So all over the world, people are panicked. They're clean out, you know, grocery shelves. They're buying hundreds of rolls of toilet paper because they don't know you know what's happening. What kind of reassurance can you give to the average consumer? Who's watching this news? 24/7 Scared? What can you tell them? It's a scientist.

Mark:   7:16
So, yeah, I mean, it is is definitely trying times, no doubt about it. We've never seen anything like this before in our lifetimes. The difficulty news is that is being so infectious that you need to practice social distancing. You need to stay home. You need to isolate yourself from anybody who potentially could be infected with the disease, and the problem there with this covid-19 virus is that people can be infected and be transmitting the disease without any symptoms. So you go to the grocery store and you might be next to somebody who is Justus healthy as you are, but that individuals infected and could be could be infecting you. So we wanna practice that social distancing. Obviously, do all the things that the CDC and W H O recommend Wash your hands, disinfect things. Like I said, the virus is easy to kill. The scaring thing is that we really don't know how bad this is gonna get. But I think that there are some highlights on the horizon, and that is that there's a number of different therapeutic drugs that are being tested, and I think that the treatment for the symptoms are are improving as we learn more about this particular disease. So I'm hopeful that even though maybe a vaccine, according to the experts, is going to take ah, year or more, sometimes it takes quite a long time to develop vaccines. It could be that we have other measures that we can use thio help with the disease and the survival rate.

Phil:   8:52
So what? You know what we're seeing here is we're seeing grocers either putting tape down in their in their checkout lanes, separating people six feet down in Australia, Woolworth's and Cole's have printed up three fancy circles. That's a six foot distance. We're now starting to see just about every supermarket retailer putting in a sheet of plexiglass between the cashier and the customer to protect the cashier as well. What else would you like grocers to know about this? And are there any other things that they should be doing?

Mark:   9:30
Well, I mean, there's only so many things that we can do right. The grocers need to treat every individual that enters that store as a potentially infected individual. Like I said, people could be infected with the virus and we could be transmitting it to people around them and not have any symptoms at all. Feel perfectly healthy. Um, you know, the the incubation period for this virus is anywhere from 5 to 14 days, so well, it could be quite a lot of human human interactions with someone who's infected and not feelings. You know, the thing grocers need to do is exactly what they are doing following the guidelines, keeping people distance away from them and just disinfect. Disinfect this. In fact, I mean, get those alcohol wipes. The Clorox wipes out and and wipe down everything that people touch.

Phil:   10:17
And what we're seeing is the retailers doing that. They brought on extra people they're closing earlier. They're opening up later so that you know, there's groceries that every 20 minutes have their people, you know, wiping down the handles in the frozen food cases and and everything else. So they're they're responding, and they're doing that from all the major grocers. So Dr Jack would thank you for taking the time. I know it's a very, very busy time for you as their new developments. I hope you'll join us and keep us all up to date on what's going on with this very serious problem. And thank you for your good work and your insights.

Mark:   10:58
Yes, thank you very much. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Phil:   11:01
Thanks for listening to today's podcast episode for more information on all things food and agriculture. Please visit us, US farmers and ranchers dot or also be sure to look for us on Facebook at us farmers and ranchers or on Twitter at USFRA. Until next time.