Coronavirus Consultant (Emerging Pathogens Institute)

Coronavirus Consultant

John Lednicky, Ph.D., is a research professor, microbiologist and molecular biologist at UF’s College of Public Health and Health Professions and the Emerging Pathogens Institute where he studies an array of disease-causing microorganisms. He has spent decades investigating coronaviruses that affect people, bats, birds, cats, cows, dogs, ferrets, mice, and even pigs. But some of this work was proprietary for clients ranging from animal shelters to the swine industry to the U.S. government, and only a fraction of it is published in journals.

His lab offers something unique: expertise in aerovirology, or the science of studying viruses in the air we breathe. The new virus sweeping the globe, SARS CoV-2, is thought to have originated in bats before spilling over into people, possibly via an intermediary mammal, where it causes a disease called COVID-19. Although scientists are still studying how SARS CoV-2 spreads, many suspect one way is by airborne routes; and as luck would have it, Lednicky happens to excel at aerovirology. But to do this work properly, he points out, researchers must be able to not only detect viruses from air samples, which he calls “easy,” but also then recover and grow them in cell cultures, a process known as isolation, which poses many challenges.

“What a lot of people don’t know how to do is isolate the virus out of air samples,” Lednicky says. “That is something my lab specializes in. You have to be able to know if there is a risk or not from what is in the air.”

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