In the news / Respiratory

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Twenty-five years ago, valley fever was an obscure fungal disease from the southwestern U.S. few people understood. But Dr. John Galgiani, knew the severe health consequences of this largely respiratory infection and took that knowledge to the Arizona Board of Regents, which authorized the creation of the University of Arizona Valley Fever Center for Excellence. Ingrained in the center's mission is outreach and education, and Dr. Galgiani, who also serves as medical director for the Banner – University Medicine Valley Fever Program in Tucson and Phoenix, education includes developing clinical guidelines for clinicians on how to recognize the disease, test for it and treat it.
 
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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. 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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On World Asthma Day, we applaud the innovative and translational lung research conducted by our BIO5 Institute members.
 
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Dr. Fernando Martinez, director of the Asthma & Airway Disease Research Center at UArizona and BIO5 member, is investigating the link between hygiene and asthma in children in Tucson and Nogales, Mexico. Dr.
 
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Dr. Monica Kraft, professor and chair of the College of Medicine – Tucson’s Department of Medicine, deputy director of the Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center, and BIO5 faculty, has received the Paul Harris Fellowship Award from Rotary International for her contributions to precision medicine as both principal investigator for the University of Arizona – Banner Health All of Us Research Program and a renowned basic and translational physician-scientist specializing in precision medicine therapies to treat severe asthma.
 
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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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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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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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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.