In the news / Immune System

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According to the Centers For Disease Control, common side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine include tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea. Dr. Elizabeth Connick, UArizona Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and BIO5 member, weighs in on factors such as genetics, age, and sex as contributing factors behind a person’s response to receiving a vaccine. Dr. Connick explains the double-edged sword that women have more robust antibody responses than men, are more likely to have reactions to the vaccine, but are also less likely to get hospitalized and succumb to COVID than men.
 
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If you got the Pfizer vaccine, will you really need to get a third shot within a year? The CEO of Pfizer said that’s likely the case, however, a local expert says not so fast. Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya, BIO5 member and expert immunologist with the UArizona College of Medicine says that Pfizer and Moderna each released data showing no drop-off in efficacy. The wildcard then becomes whether or not there’s a new variant that appears, that more substantially evades the immune response than the ones that we know about right now.
 
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Snake bites are now recognised as one of the world's most important neglected health problems and one that disproportionately affects poorer communities. Dr. Leslie Boyer, founding director of BIO5’s Venom Immunochemistry, Pharmacology and Emergency Response (Viper) Institute at the University of Arizona, weighs in on the challenges surrounding antivenom. While many antivenoms are relatively effective, the complex nature of snake venom can make treatment difficult. Access to antivenom can be patchy and treatments with it can be expensive. The World Health Organization considers snake bites to be such a burden on some communities that they recently classified snake bite envenomation – where venom is injected by a bite – as a neglected tropical disease.
 
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At the most recent UArizona COVID-19 status briefing President Robert C. Robbins urged students to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine dose by April 16 to reach full vaccination before summer travel. Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya, associate professor of immunobiology in the College of Medicine – Tucson and BIO5 member, joined President Robbins to explain the basics of COVID-19 antibodies and the testing program. Dr. Bhattacharya said the study will help scientists determine how long immunity – either from infection or vaccination – can last, how many antibodies are required to protect from the virus, how age affects the immune response to infection or vaccination, and whether symptoms after infection or vaccination correlate with antibody levels.
 
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Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines provide good protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. But how long does that last? Will you need a booster shot? Researchers including Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya, BIO5 member and associate professor of immunobiology at the University of Arizona explains that the vaccines will likely provide at least some degree of protection for a long time because there are so many layers of immunity. The first shots of the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines provide reasonable protection. Then the second shot bumps up the level of antibodies and T cells produced by the body, he says.
 
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BEAMS is the latest in a series of UArizona-led respiratory studies – anchored by the Tucson Children’s Respiratory Study, ongoing since 1980 – that have yielded revelations and remedies on asthma, the hygiene hypothesis and respiratory disease progression from infancy to adulthood.
 
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With millions more Americans getting vaccinated every day, some have complained about fever, fatigue and other ailments they weren't expecting. Though vaccines are still very effective even without side effects, experiencing side effects are short-lived and are actually proof that your immune system is working the way it's supposed to. BIO5 associate director and UArizona EEB department head Dr. Michael Worobey says, with the first dose, you are having to generate an immune response from the ground up. The body produces antibodies, but also begins generating B cells to make targeted antibodies. The second time you give a person the shot, those cells are sitting around like a clone army and can immediately start producing a very big immune response.
 
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As COVID-19 vaccines roll out nationwide, University of Arizona Health Sciences researchers at the College of Medicine – Tucson and BIO5 Institute are connecting with “vaccine hesitant” individuals, encouraging them to reexamine their doubts. Dr. Sairam Parthasarathy says misunderstandings surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines demonstrate the importance of widespread health literacy, and health literacy goes hand in hand with trust in science. Dr. Michael D L Johnson says scientists must strive for accessibility, and acknowledges the biggest challenge is getting the right information to people who are expressing reluctance.
 
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The University of Arizona's COVID-19 vaccination site reached a milestone over the weekend, surpassing 100,000 doses administered. The site has now administered a total of 102,734 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, President Robert C. Robbins announced during the virtual weekly briefing on the university's COVID-19 status. The announcement came on the same day the university is transitioning to Stage 3 of its instructional plan, allowing courses of up to 100 students to meet in person.
 
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In this episode, hosts Brooke Moreno and Sean Cadin talk with Dr. Robert Jackson about his BIO5 and Canadian fellowships, HPV and COVID-19 vaccines, and his desire to share the scientific method with the public.
 
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This is true of all vaccines: Their protective effects take several days or weeks to kick in. It’s the reason we get our flu shots in the fall, well before the height of respiratory-virus season, and it’s why health officials often recommend that vaccines required for travel, such as those that ward off yellow fever, be administered about a month or more in advance. Vaccination, and the defenses it affords, is less a singular event than a series of steps on a shifting landscape.
 
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During National Endometriosis Awareness Month, we’re highlighting our researchers’ efforts to tackle this common women’s health problem.
 
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To better understand the complexities of the immune response to the novel coronavirus and evaluate the viral immunity of essential workers in the state, scientists at the University of Arizona created the AZ HEROES research study. The team led by Dr. Jeff Burgess, associate dean for research in the UArizona College of Public Health and BIO5 member, recently expanded efforts to look at how well COVID-19 vaccines are working to provide lasting immunity for high-risk populations.
 
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On February 15, Dr. Michael Worobey presented his work on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the Precision Wellness in the Time of COVID-19 series.
 
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In the College of Medicine – Tucson’s Department of Immunobiology, Department Head and Professor Dr. Janko Nikolich-Žugich, and Associate Professor Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya, PhD, both members of the BIO5 Institute, were well-prepared to study SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, and gave us head start in the development of one of the most accurate COVID-19 antibody tests in the country. When the inflammation response goes awry, especially as people age, many chronic diseases associated with aging are then made worse by chronic inflammation. Unique research focus on immunity, inflammation and aging is a UArizona Health Sciences strategic initiative being led by Dr. Nikolich-Žugich and an advisory team consisting of researchers including BIO5 faculty, Drs. Felicia Goodrum and Michael Johnson.
 
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Receiving the vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 comes with a deep sense of relief. The U.S. has administered nearly 58 million doses since the COVID-19 vaccines became available in December 2020. The vaccine was developed in record time, less than a year from identification of the virus, making the vaccine a marvel of clinical and basic science. It is our best defense to end a pandemic that has claimed nearly half a million lives in the U.S. As thousands of vaccines are given each day, we have taken an important step toward the goal of ending the pandemic. Researchers discuss the steps remaining to attain this goal.
 
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In this episode, hosts Brooke Moreno and Sean Cadin talk with Dr. Bonnie LaFleur about her upcoming Precision Wellness in the Time of COVID-19 lecture on March 15, 2021.
 
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Though trained at rival institutions, Drs. Julie Ledford and Michael Johnson formed a friendship over a mutual love of science and their daughters that has led to an RO1 grant and recent publication.