Name: Zhengchun Lu
From: Zhenjiang, Jiangsu, China

Degrees and institute where received: MD, Jiangsu University, Zhenjiang, China
MSc, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands
PhD, Department of Veterinary Science, University of Kentucky, USA.

Zhengchun Lu's MSc thesis work at the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) in the Netherlands focused on equine arteritis virus (EAV) replication complex. Eric J. Snijder, PhD, Lu's mentor at LUMC, introduced her to Udeni Balasuriya, PhD, at University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center in 2005.

"My research interest is mainly focused on development and validation of molecular diagnostic assays for equine respiratory viruses and investigation of the role of EAV (equine arteritis virus) envelope proteins in virus attachment and entry," Lu said.

Part of Lu's doctoral dissertation research focused on development and validation of molecular diagnostic assays (real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction [rRT-PCR]) for detecting several common equine viral pathogens: EAV, equine influenza virus, and equine rhinitis viruses A and B. To prevent the spread of infectious diseases, there is an urgent need to detect viral respiratory pathogens, and it turns out that rRT-PCR provides fast and reliable viral nucleic acid detection in clinical specimens. Essentially, this applied research will benefit the equine industry in the long run, she said.

"We have developed molecular diagnostic methods to detect EAV, equine influenza virus, and equine rhinitis viruses A and B in clinical samples, and four manuscripts have been published from this project," Lu said.

According to Lu, the assays are highly specific and can distinguish between various equine respiratory viral pathogens.

"The assays developed will benefit the equine practitioners and equine industry in the control and prevention of equine viral respiratory diseases sharing similar signs and symptoms," she said.

According to Lu, these studies will help develop improved prophylactic (preventive) reagents to prevent EAV infection in horses. The protocols and reagents for detecting these viral agents have now been made available to several veterinary diagnostic laboratories.

The second part of Lu's dissertation research focused on basic research studying the role of EAV envelope proteins in virus attachment and entry using reverse genetics technology. This work has recently been published in the Journal of Virology.

Lu graduated with a PhD in June from the University of Kentucky and moved to Oregon to join her husband. She plans to pursue her medical career as a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases of children.

Shaila Sigsgaard is a contributing writer for the Bluegrass Equine Digest.

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