In the news / Infectious Disease

NEWS
With the rise of the highly transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant, stories surrounding breakthrough cases of vaccinated people continue to surface. Researchers remind us that vaccines reinforce the defenses we already have, so that we can encounter the virus safely and potentially build further upon that protection.
 
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The AZ HEROES study of COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness and immunity among frontline workers has received a $15 million award from the CDC to continue the current research for another year and expand to include children and focus on underserved populations.
 
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Scientists continue to investigate how COVID-19 affects our senses and changes the way we interact with society. Dr. Katalin Gothard says the isolation that comes with COVID-19 especially impacts our sense of touch. She is also studying how COVID-19 is changing our brain chemistry.
 
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Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya says the original COVID-19 Delta variant is more transmissible than anything we’ve seen before. Now, it mutated to delta plus, which seems to make it harder for antibodies to block it from entering a cell. Dr. Bhattacharya says the vaccines we have should provide protection from delta plus.
 
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Reaching the elusive herd immunity in Pima County has proven difficult as vaccine administration steadily decreased beginning in April. While some people remain hesitant to get a shot or simply are refusing to do so, health officials attribute the struggle to vaccinate to a lack of access.
 
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In a time when the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is rapidly gaining traction, full vaccination offers a much better firewall against infection than partial vaccination. Dr. Michael Worobey agrees the virus has not run out of moves. Experiments found that fully vaccinated people — with the recommended regimen of two shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine — should retain significant protection against the delta variant.
 
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A just-published report that included data from the University of Arizona AZ Heroes study found that those who contract COVID-19 after vaccination are likely to have a lower viral load, have a shorter infection time and experience milder symptoms than those who didn't receive a vaccine.
 
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Results of the AZ HEROES study show those who contract COVID-19 after vaccination have lower viral load, shorter infection, and milder symptoms compared to the unvaccinated. The study followed Arizona first responders, health care workers, and other essential frontliners.
 
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Real-world data from the AZ HEROES study show COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections, and when breakthrough infections do occur, the level of infection and impact of the disease are significantly reduced. Dr. Jeff Burgess says that in addition to continuing research into COVID-19 immunity and vaccine efficacy, AZ HEROES researchers are beginning to examine the frequency of SARS-CoV-2 variants.
 
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Showing high efficacy against the Delta variant, Dr. Elizabeth Connick urges people to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. The vaccines are shown to work well to prevent symptomatic disease against both the Alpha and Delta variants, and Dr. Connick encourages those hesitant to get their immunizations to consult with their physician.
 
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The BIO5 Media Facility has supplied UArizona researchers with top-of-the-line reagents, dishwashing and project support for nearly 15 years.
 
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Twenty-five years ago, Dr. John Galgiani took his knowledge of Valley Fever to the AZ Board of Regents which authorized the creation of the University of Arizona Valley Fever Center for Excellence. Today, Valley Fever is much better understood because of UArizona researchers dedication to develop rapid testing, & vaccine for dogs with the hopes a human vaccine could follow.
 
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Experts say cases of Valley fever, a fungal infection common in the desert Southwest, are on the rise. "For every case, it's reported there are probably three or four people who got sick and had an illness from this but the doctors never recognize it," said Dr. John Galgiani, director of the University of Arizona's Valley Fever Center for Excellence.
 
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Dr. Michael Johnson discusses his passion for mentoring and outreach, and how being on the receiving end of this support has helped his professional growth.
 
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Dr. John Galgiani, a professor of medicine in infectious diseases at the College of Medicine – Tucson and director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence, is hopeful that a Valley fever vaccine for dogs may lay the groundwork for another human candidate.
 
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Wondering how much protection you have against COVID-19? There are antibody, or serology, tests that will tell you if your body mounted an immune response.
 
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To discuss the ways to tackle the spread of the second wave of COVID-19 in rural areas of India, the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS) and Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi organized a panel discussion on “Rural Realities | Karnataka Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave.” The esteemed panelists included Dr. Purnima Madhivanan, BIO5 member and UArizona associate professor with the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. Along with her colleagues, Dr. Madhivanan discussed issues including the challenges of vaccine shortage, access to technology, and the role of government in providing sustained public health policy.
 
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Dr. Michael Johnson, faculty with the UArizona College of Medicine-Tucson, BIO5 Institute, and assistant professor in the Department of Immunobiology, has been named one of 1,000 Inspiring Black Scientists in America by Cell Mentor, an online resource from Cell Press and Cell Signaling Technology that provides early-career researchers with career insights, publishing advice, and techniques on experimental processes and procedures. His work involves investigating how bacteria interact with metals during infections. Also passionate about science communication and community outreach, Dr. Johnson is cofounder of the National Summer Undergraduate Research Project.