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Lab serves state's veterinary needs
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Michael and Shuping Zhang work at the same facility, but you won't find this husband and wife team making dinner plans or coordinating transportation for their kids.
“If people ask about my husband, I tell them my husband is at home. We are just colleagues at work,” Shuping said. “We work in the same facility, but we each have our own sections.”
The Zhangs are associate professors in the Mississippi Veterinary Research and Diagnostic Laboratory operated by Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in Pearl. He is a veterinary virologist overseeing the virology and molecular diagnostics sections, and she is a microbiologist in charge of the daily operations of the microbiology and serology sections.
The lab opened a new $18.5 million, 40,000-square-foot facility in 2006, joining the Poultry Research and Diagnostic Laboratory that had operated on the site since 2003. The two labs provide routine diagnostic work for all the veterinary clinics in the state and the poultry and livestock industries. They also are involved in monitoring for several significant diseases to prevent serious outbreaks.
Both the Zhangs are from China where they earned Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees before receiving doctorates at Kansas State University. Both came to MSU in 2002.
Shuping worked three years in poultry management in China, and then spent three years doing poultry research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service in Maryland. She worked at Texas A&M for three years in veterinary microbiology before coming to MSU. Michael did five years of post-doctoral work at Texas A&M before coming to MSU.
The Zhangs collaborated to set up a molecular diagnostic laboratory at the MSU facility.
“Before that, we didn't do any molecular tests, and now we have about 30 that we conduct here,” Michael said.
Lab director Lanny Pace said with the new building came the latest equipment and increased staff to prepare the facility for its function.
“Rapid diagnoses and responses are the keys to preventing catastrophic losses when a major disease outbreak occurs in an animal industry,” Pace said. “We are very fortunate to have people with the qualifications and skills that Shuping and Mike bring to our faculty.
“The support of the Mississippi Legislature, state veterinary association, state veterinarian, Commissioner of Agriculture and animal commodity groups to build a modern, state-of-the-art facility certainly contributed to our ability to recruit veterinary diagnosticians of this caliber to Mississippi State University,” he said.
The lab joined the National Animal Health Laboratory Network and participates in USDA surveillance programs for diseases such as avian influenza, exotic Newcastle disease, classical swine fever, as well as foot-and-mouth disease. At the state level, the research and diagnostic lab plays an important role in herd monitoring programs on bovine viral disease and Johne's disease sponsored by the Mississippi Board of Animal Health.
The lab also collaborated with the Mississippi Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on surveillance programs for West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis virus and St. Louis encephalitis virus in Mississippi until this year when that program was no longer funded.
“Our case load has been steadily increasing since 2003, and samples come in from all veterinary clinics across the state,” Michael said, estimating that routine diagnostic work consumes at least 70 percent of his time.
Each spring, Michael teaches a CVM class in Starkville, and he supervises four technicians and a graduate student.
“I'm very grateful for MSU giving me the opportunity to serve,” Michael said.
Shuping's lab work involves mammals and poultry. She handles blood, urine, feces, tissue and other samples from all animal species. Her job is to diagnose infectious diseases in animals using microbiological, serological and molecular methods. She also performs antimicrobial susceptibility testing to help clinicians find the best drug for treatment. She has a staff of five plus graduate students who contribute to the service and research programs of the laboratory.
“It is my goal and dream to make our lab nationally visible,” Shuping said. “Our mission is to provide the best quality services to all our clients in the state and nearby region. In the process, we want to bring our state and college to the next level.”
Contact: Dr. Lanny Pace (601) 420-2700