In the news / Immune System

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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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Dr. John Galgiani, a professor and director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence at the College of Medicine – Tucson, and a group of researchers are working on a new valley fever vaccine formula for dogs that uses a live version of the fungus.

 
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A cross-border investigation of children's susceptibility to asthma and other childhood illnesses in the United States and Mexico is the focus of a new study led by researchers in the Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center at the University of Arizona Health Sciences.
 
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Emily Merritt, who is pursuing a doctorate in immunobiology, was one of the first students to participate in the Infection and Inflammation as Drivers of Aging, a program funded by a National Institutes of Health T32 training grant, which supports four graduate or post-doctoral students annually. She and four other students presented their research virtually at the inaugural Infection and Inflammation as Drivers of Aging symposium in January. The research topics ranged from chronic inflammatory response to ischemic stroke and tracking antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in aging individuals. Merritt presented on Toxoplasma gondii, a single-celled parasite she studies under the guidance of Dr. Anita Koshy, professor of neurology and BIO5 member.
 
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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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Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya, UArizona associate professor of immunobiology and BIO5 member, reveals the difference between the flu and COVID-19 vaccines are the inflammatory responses each causes. Experts say an immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine is a good thing.
 
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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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Dakota Reinartz, a UArizona COM-T doctoral student along with faculty mentors, BIO5 member Dr. Justin Wilson, and Dr. Julie Bauman, deputy director of the UArizona Cancer Center, are researching the role inflammation may play in the development of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas. Reinartz’s work with Drs. Wilson and Bauman is made possible through a National Cancer Institute training grant, known as a T32. The grant supports institutions in developing or enhancing research training opportunities for pre- and postdoctoral fellows in cancer research. The Cancer Center used the funding to establish the Integrated Cancer Scholars program.
 
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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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Health leaders in Pima County are reassuring the public that although Johnson & Johnson vaccines are being temporarily halted, both Moderna and Pfizer remain very safe options. The announcement came after the U.S.

 
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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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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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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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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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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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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.