CMU research probes fish link to virus

College of Medicine, biology faculty members team up on new study

| Author: Gary H. Piatek

Two Central Michigan University faculty members are among researchers worldwide working to unravel mysteries around the novel coronavirus and COVID-19.

Michael Conway and Peter Dijkstra are beginning research to see if the emergence of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, can be traced to fish sold in the city's open markets where the virus is believed to have first infected humans.

Conway teaches microbiology in the College of Medicine, and Dijkstra teaches biology in the College of Science and Engineering.

"This is an important project because we still don't know what species is involved in the disease transfer that led to human infection and the current pandemic," Conway said.

He and Dijkstra are designing experiments involving fish and coronaviruses like those that cause SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

That information could help the researchers expand the possible species that could harbor these types of viruses, which could help not only current efforts to track the virus but also efforts to prevent a future pandemic.

While virtually in its initial stages, both researchers intend to involve their students in the hands-on research when they return to campus.

"It is crucial to learn more about this virus, which is having such a dramatic impact on everyone's life," Dijkstra said, "and it's great that CMU can play a crucial role in the fight against it."

"Being able to research something that is having such an impact on the world's population is exciting and humbling at the same time."

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