USM researchers working toward vaccine for West Nile Virus - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

USM researchers working toward vaccine for West Nile Virus

Posted: Updated:
Dr. Fengwei Bai, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Southern Miss, is leading a research team to study the mechanics of West Nile virus. (Photo by Danny Rawls) Dr. Fengwei Bai, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Southern Miss, is leading a research team to study the mechanics of West Nile virus. (Photo by Danny Rawls)
  • Most ReadMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Lamar Co. man sentenced in federal court on drug charges

    Lamar Co. man sentenced in federal court on drug charges

    Thursday, July 31 2014 12:31 PM EDT2014-07-31 16:31:27 GMT
    A Lamar County man has been sentenced to nearly 8 years in federal prison on drug charges. Tommy Lucas, 48, was sentenced to 95 months by U.S. District Court Judge Keith Starrett Thursday morning. LuacsMore >>
    A Lamar County man has been sentenced to nearly 8 years in federal prison on drug charges. Tommy Lucas, 48, was sentenced to 95 months by U.S. District Court Judge Keith Starrett Thursday morningMore >>
  • City of Hattiesburg employee fails to register as sex offender

    City of Hattiesburg employee fails to register as sex offender

    Thursday, July 31 2014 12:04 PM EDT2014-07-31 16:04:34 GMT
    A City of Hattiesburg employee is behind bars for failing to register as a sex offender. Public Works employee Martaze Denzel Hammond, 35, was arrested Wednesday by the Forrest County Sheriff's DepartmentMore >>
    A City of Hattiesburg employee is behind bars for failing to register as a sex offender. Public Works employee Martaze Denzel Hammond, 35, was arrested Wednesday by the Forrest County Sheriff's Department after exceeding a 90 day period in which to register as a sex offender.More >>
  • Four arrested after attempted correctional facility drug crime

    Four arrested after attempted correctional facility drug crime

    Thursday, July 31 2014 4:21 PM EDT2014-07-31 20:21:06 GMT
    Four suspects were arrested Thursday during an attempt to commit a crime at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution. According to prison officials, officers responded to a fence alarm around 5 a.m.,More >>
    Four suspects were arrested Thursday during an attempt to commit a crime at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution. According to prison officials, officers responded to a fence alarm around 5 a.m., July 31, 2014, at the SMCI campus located in Leakesville, MS where officers found two packages. K9 personnel picked up a trail of the suspects which lead towards Wildcat Corner, located at the corner of High School Road and Hwy. 57 near Leakesville.More >>
HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

This is a news release from the University of Southern Mississippi 

As temperatures rise throughout the long, hot days of summer in South Mississippi, so too does the presence of mosquitoes. And with that pesky insect comes the threat of West Nile Virus.

The mosquito-transmitted disease has been on the upswing nationwide over the past several years. It is estimated that the virus has killed more than 1,500 people and infected more than 50,000 Americans in the last 15 years.

Researchers at The University of Southern Mississippi have joined forces with physicians at Methodist Rehab Center and University Medical Center in Jackson on a project that unites lab-conducted research with health care providers who work with patients on a daily basis. Through the newly formed West Nile Virus Research Network, researchers and health care professional strive to better understand the link between certain mosquitoes and the deadly virus.

The connection between the mosquito and West Nile virus is widely documented and cases of the virus have been reported in every U.S. state. But researchers still aren't exactly sure how the virus causes brain and spinal cord infections in humans and animals.

Dr. Fengwei Bai, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Southern Miss, is leading a research team to study the mechanics of West Nile virus as it relates to animals and working hard to develop a proven treatment for the virus. The ultimate objective is to develop a successful vaccine.

"My goal is to work on the animal model here at the lab at USM and have the animal research facility, so we handle real viruses for research," said Bai.

Bai is widely known as one of the nation's leading West Nile virus researchers. His expertise in the field helped lead to the formation of the West Nile Virus Research Network – the first of its kind in the U.S.

Graduate student Amber Paul has spent years studying these conditions from both labs and class settings, but found it fascinating to meet people who have been infected with the virus.

"I was able to meet patients in November of last year who had been infected with West Nile Virus, and it was eye-opening to see the types of implications that come with the disease," said Paul. "It sort of makes you appreciate the bench work when you can interact with patients who suffer from these types of problems." 

The research network is designed as a three year project, but participants hope their partnership will continue in the future, as they are closer than ever to developing a vaccine.

"People have been working on it for a long time," said Paul "It's not to say we're better than anyone else, but we are trying very hard to push our research to the next level."