In the news / Infectious Disease

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Students, faculty and staff are expected to return to campus this August, but with COVID-19 cases still on the rise in Arizona and the highly social nature of college, the University of Arizona called upon a team of BIO5 Institute members to address inevitable future cases

 
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Dr. Yin Chen, UArizona College of Pharmacy associate professor and BIO5 member, was awarded a $2.58 million federal grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to seek a better understanding of fungal asthma caused by exposures to environmental fungi. Dr. Chen will collaborate with fellow BIO5 members Drs. Deepta Bhattacharya, Donata Vercelli, and Fernando Martinez on this study.
 
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Several research teams in the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands, including one featuring UArizona immunologist and BIO5 member Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya, are working on developing nasal coronavirus vaccines. The hope is that the nasal vaccines will do all that their intramuscular competitors can and more by mounting a multi-pronged attack on the virus from the moment it tries to enter the body.
 
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A respiratory-assist device (RAD) co-created by Dr. Sairam Parthasarathy, UArizona COM-T Pulmonary/Allergy division chief and BIO5 member, has been given a new use in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The device was originally developed for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients, but now Dr. Parthasarathy's team is working to get the invention to front-line workers battling COVID-19.
 
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Researchers are continually faced with the daunting task of securing financial support to conduct their research. Highly competitive grants, limited opportunities, and poor availability of resources make it difficult for investigators to keep their labs afloat, much less thrive. Dr. Felicia Goodrum, professor of immunobiology and member of the BIO5 Institute, has been nominated as the recipient of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) award designed to give productive and creative scientists long-term support, without the burden of constantly devoting time and staff resources to applying for multiple new grants to fund their research.
 
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More than half a dozen epidemiologists, virologists, and psychologists, including UArizona Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health associate professor and BIO5 member Dr. Purnima Madhivanan, discuss methods that struggling governments can implement to prevent further damaging spread of coronavirus.
 
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Will products made with copper keep the coronavirus at bay? Dr. Michael Johnson, UArizona Immunobiology associate professor and BIO5 member, dispels myths about copper’s effectiveness as a sanitizing agent against coronavirus as pandemic fears have created interest in metallic products touting antimicrobial properties.
 
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Dr. Paloma Beamer, a UArizona associate professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and BIO5 member, discusses the risks of contracting COVID-19 through air travel and the precautions and steps you can take to prevent contracting the virus. Dr. Beamer believes it is important to assess the necessity of the trip before deciding to fly and recommends rescheduling if possible. Dr. Beamer also gives tips for safety and cleanliness for those that cannot avoid air-travel.
 
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A new analysis, led by UArizona Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology head and BIO5 associate director Dr. Michael Worobey, indicates that the first COVID-19 outbreak began around February 13th, weeks later than the previously assumed timeline of the outbreak beginning in mid-January. The study provides reason for optimism: It suggests that if COVID-19 cases can be brought down to very low numbers, it’s possible to use techniques such as contact tracing to keep an outbreak under control.
 
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The UArizona College of Pharmacy's scientists, labs and alumni are partnering with pharmaceutical companies, working in hospital emergency departments, and helping the public get the medication they need as we face the COVID-19 pandemic. Included in this effort are BIO5 members Drs. Jun Wang and Chris Hulme, both of which have shifted their research foci toward COVID-19. Dr. Wang is working on developing promising drug candidates that inhibit SARS-CoV-2 virus in cell culture, while Dr. Hulme is researching the pharmacological underpinnings of COVID-19.
 
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The BIO5 Institute solicited COVID-19 research proposals for seed grants supplied by the Technology and Research Initiative Fund (TRIF).

 
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As of April 28, more than 6,500 COVID-19 cases have been reported in the state of Arizona.

 
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The University of Arizona will soon begin analyzing blood samples from hundreds of thousands of Arizonans to determine who has been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 and developed antibodies against it. The first phase of testing will begin April 30 in Pima County and will include 3,000 health care workers and first responders.
 
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Right now, the attention of the United States and the world is focused on the global COVID-19 pandemic. However, as summer and the monsoon season approach, those in Arizona and other parts of the Southwest will have another respiratory illness to contend with – valley fever. Dr. John Galgiani, director of the UArizona Valley Fever Center and BIO5 faculty member, discusses the similarities and differences of COVID-19 and valley fever, as well as the risks of contracting both at the same time.
 
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To address the critical need of local COVID-19 data, a collaboration of researchers from UArizona Health Sciences & The Data Science Institute including BIO5’s Nirav Merchant, launched a 2-way texting system to gather valuable info to track the virus in Arizona. The application will assist with identifying areas where resources are needed.
 
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Black scientists across the country are a critical part of the global response to fighting the COVID-19 virus through their research initiatives. One of which is UArizona Immunobiologist and BIO5 member Dr. Michael Johnson, who is investigating if copper could be used to alter the binding of the virus that causes COVID-19. Copper could potentially block the virus from being able to access zinc and stop coronavirus from entering our cells or replicating once it is inside.
 
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Along with a fellow virologist, Dr. Felicia Goodrum, a UArizona Immunobiologist and BIO5 member, discusses the logic of continuing U.S. and state mandated shelter in place orders to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Goodrum gives her recommendations for moving forward and her belief that as a nation, we must work to marshal protective resources, public health monitoring, and strong scientific and political leadership as we navigate this new normal.
 
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With $3.5 million in funding from the state, the University of Arizona is moving forward with plans to start producing blood tests to detect COVID-19 antibodies for the Arizona’s front-line workforce. The antibody tests build upon the work of UArizona Health Sciences researchers and BIO5 Institute members Dr. Janko Nikolich-Žugich, professor and head of the Department of Immunobiology, and Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya, associate professor of immunobiology. The tests will help determine how many people have been exposed to the novel coronavirus and have successfully built an immunity against it. Experts say as many as 50% of people who have been exposed to COVID-19 have experienced few to no symptoms of the disease.