In the news / Cardiovascular

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University of Arizona students are taking part in a nationwide study involving more than 20 college campuses that aims to understand whether people vaccinated against COVID-19 can still transmit the disease as asymptomatic carriers. The study’s principal investigator, Dr. Elizabeth Connick, BIO5 member and UArizona chief of the Infectious Diseases Division explained how the study is being conducted and how the findings can serve the ultimate goal of ending the pandemic.
 
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If you had the coronavirus and recovered, your body launched an immune response, but how does your body’s reaction to the virus compare with your body’s reaction to the vaccine? Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya, immunobiologist at the University of Arizona and BIO5 member says it depends. Because natural immunity varies, Bhattacharya says the recommendation is you should get the vaccine even if you were exposed to COVID-19.
 
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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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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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The National Academy of Inventors has named 61 academic inventors to the 2021 class of NAI Senior Members. Among them are University of Arizona Health Sciences professors Drs. May Khanna and Meredith Hay. NAI Senior Members are active faculty, scientists and administrators from NAI Member Institutions who have demonstrated remarkable innovation producing technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society.
 
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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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Dr. Elizabeth Connick, UArizona Chief of Infectious Diseases and BIO5 member discusses the possible need for booster shots for COVID-19 vaccines, like the one from Moderna. Meantime, Dr. Connick and the UArizona College of Medicine are beginning a separate study of the Moderna vaccine. The goal of PreventCOVID is to recruit 12,000 students, at 20 universities nationwide, including UArizona. They are trying to determine if masking and social distancing are still needed for those who have been vaccinated. It will closely look at how effective the vaccine is at preventing asymptomatic infection, as we need the answers to these questions in order to guide our public policy.
 
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Can vaccinated people who are exposed to COVID-19 still shed the virus from their nose and mouth and infect others? Answering that question will influence whether masking and social distancing rules are warranted for those who have been vaccinated. That’s the goal of PreventCOVIDU, a clinical trial that is recruiting 12,000 students at more than 20 universities nationwide, including the University of Arizona. Dr. Elizabeth Connick, BIO5 member, Infectious Diseases Division chief, and professor at the UArizona College of Medicine-Tucson, co-leads the UArizona PreventCOVIDU site, and hopes to recruit up to 700 UArizona students to participate in the trial.
 
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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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The Department of Physiology in the College of Medicine - Tucson announces the appointments of Dr. Claudia Stanescu, as associate department head for education, and Dr. Erika Eggers, as associate department head for research. Dr. Eggers, associate professor in the Department of Physiology and the Department of Biomedical Engineering and BIO5 member, leads an active research group that studies synaptic physiology in the retina and the defects that develop in early diabetes.
 
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Longtime University of Arizona supporters and volunteers Humberto and Czarina Lopez have given the University of Arizona $3.5M to establish two endowed chairs. To the Sarver Heart Center, a gift of $2M has been provided to the UArizona Sarver Heart Center where Dr. Carol Gregorio, co-director of Sarver Heart Center, head of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, and BIO5 member, is the inaugural chair holder. The Lopezes directed $1.5M to establish the Dhaliwal-HSLopez Chair in Accounting at the Eller College of Management in honor of Dan Dhaliwal, a 1977 alumnus, who was head of the accounting department from 1996 until his passing in 2016.
 
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A new study dates emergence of the virus that causes COVID-19 to as early as October 2019. Simulations also suggest that in most cases, zoonotic viruses die out naturally before causing a pandemic.
 
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UArizona sleep researchers are working to tackle insomnia, sleep apnea and pandemic-induced "coronasomnia."
 
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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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A $1.5 million Health Sciences grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will support research to examine how being a firefighter affects women’s stress levels, as well as their risk of cancer and reproductive health issues. The study to understand the occupational risks of these firefighters will include work from UArizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health faculty and BIO5 members, Drs. Jeff Burgess and Leslie Farland.