BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - LSU science researchers are zeroing in on new technology that could prevent and fight deadly diseases, like Ebola.
They are studying plants that could provide live-saving medicines that would benefit humans and animals.
The fatal disease from Africa, known as Ebola recently made a return to national news headlines. It was discovered in 1976.
Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner, Dr. Mike Strain, said in the three decades, the cases have more than doubled. There are now 3,600 reported cases.
The most recent struck home, when two U.S. healthcare workers go it overseas. They were treated with a newly developed vaccine called ZMapp, which was created from an Australian tobacco plant. It was the first time scientists were able to identify antibodies from plants.
"They were able to take a gene from that plant and incorporate that into the tobacco and in a short period of time harvest the proteins and inject them into people to fight the virus," Strain explained.
Animal and Food Science researchers at LSU are studying similar advances in hopes of eventually finding cures to diseases in animals and eventually, humans.
Chris Ringuette is one of them.
"When you see it come up in the news from the CDC, we know it's out there so we are on the front line where to prevent these diseases from spreading," Ringuette said.
Ringuette said it could take weeks, months, or even years before the discoveries they make in the lab make it to hospitals. That is why they are also learning new ways to stay ahead.
"I think we are going to break through like that, and it's going to be helpful," Ringuette said.
Dr. Strain said, essentially, scientists are teaching plants to produce the drugs and antibodies humans need to fight deadly viruses.