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ARS Veterinary Medical Officer Wins Award for Research / February 13, 2002 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Story about Suarez's research

David Suarez


ARS Veterinary Medical Officer Wins Award for Research

By Sharon Durham
February 13, 2002

BELTSVILLE, Md., Feb. 13—David L. Suarez, a veterinary medical officer with the Agricultural Research Service, has been named the “Herbert L. Rothbart Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist” by the agency for research explaining how chickens and turkeys contract avian influenza. Suarez also contributed to the development of several new types of vaccines for avian influenza.

“Dr. Suarez’s work has redefined our understanding of how influenza viruses evolve in poultry, which should allow us to better predict when a mildly pathogenic influenza will shift to the highly pathogenic form of avian influenza,” said Edward B. Knipling, ARS acting administrator. ARS is the chief scientific research agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In 1997, a new strain of influenza (H5N1) appeared in both the chicken and human populations of Hong Kong. As a result, 18 people were hospitalized and six people died. Also, 1.4 million chickens were destroyed to stop further spread of the disease to humans.

Suarez was one of several ARS scientists, at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that conducted studies to determine which strains of H5N1 isolated from people in Hong Kong could–via injection in the lab–be transmitted to poultry. This research has continued with the more recent 1999 H5N1 viruses from Hong Kong to determine the threat these viruses have for avian and human health.

Suarez is involved in the eradication efforts associated with the live bird market in the northeast United States. He serves on the Live Bird Market working group and developed a rapid detection system for influenza used in a planned emergency eradication effort by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services in April 2002 in the northeast United States.

A rapid diagnostic test using standard molecular genetics technology was developed by Suarez to accomplish rapid subtyping of influenza viruses by diagnostic laboratories that do not work with influenza viruses on a routine basis.

Suarez and other ARS scientists were presented the USDA 2000 Silver Plow Award for their research that advanced understanding of the pathobiology and epidemiology of the H5N1 avian influenza.

A native of Montgomery, Ala., Suarez received a Ph.D. from Iowa State University and a doctorate of veterinary medicine from Auburn University. He joined ARS in 1995 as a post- doctoral research associate.

In 2000, Suarez received the Bayer-Snoeyenbos New Investigator Award, a national award from the American Association of Avian Pathologists recognizing research accomplishments in poultry health by a researcher during the first 7 years post-Ph.D. Suarez has previously won a USDA certificate of merit for high superior service and has been a two-time winner of a certificate of merit for outstanding performance.

Suarez is the lead scientist for the avian influenza research project at the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory and was the lead author of the first comprehensive publication on the 1997 poultry and human H5N1 outbreaks in Hong Kong, which included an in-depth phylogenetic analysis of all eight influenza genes, experimental chicken inoculations and pathology studies.

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