Linda J. Saif, MS, PhD, is a Distinguished University Professor at The Ohio State University in the Food Animal Health Research Program (CFAES, OARDC) and the Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine. She is a virologist and immunologist, whose research focuses on comparative aspects of enteric and respiratory viral infections (coronaviruses, rotaviruses and caliciviruses) of food animals and humans.
Her lab also investigates the interrelationships among animal viruses, especially coronaviruses, and their human counterparts to assess their zoonotic potential, mechanisms of interspecies transmission and potential vaccines.
“Veterinarians should be at the forefront of this research to investigate if a new disease can cause a reverse zoonosis and transmit from humans to pets or livestock. They need to be involved in identifying the animal reservoirs and the intermediate hosts (unknown for COVID-19) for these diseases,” said Saif. “Veterinarians should be involved in all aspects of these zoonotic infections in concert with a One Health Approach.”
Dr. Saif’s research on ruminant coronaviruses and their interspecies transmission is particularly relevant to the documented zoonotic transmission of MERS from camels to humans in the Middle East. She was a lead consultant to the WHO during the 2003 SARS outbreak and her laboratory is a WHO International Reference Lab for Animal coronaviruses in the SARS network. Dr. Saif has assisted the US CDC to better understand SARS to prevent or control future pandemic threats.
Dr. Saif served as an animal coronavirus expert for the Ministry of Agriculture in Saudi Arabia to advise officials on MERS in camels and control strategies. Her lab was an International Reference Lab for TGEV porcine coronavirus for the Office International des Epizooties (OIE), Paris, France. With a team of other FAHRP faculty who also have expertise on CoVs, Dr. Saif hopes to develop an animal model for COVID-19 to study viral pathogenesis, antivirals, vaccines and immunity.