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University of Utah Health

5 Ways Scientists Are Addressing the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

University of Utah Scientists Ramp up Efforts in Time of Need
23-Mar-2020 8:35 AM EDT, by University of Utah Health

Newswise — Do changes in temperature and humidity affect the new coronavirus?

One of the biggest unknowns about the coronavirus is how changing seasons will affect its spread. Researchers from the Department of Physics & Astronomy received grant funding to answer this question. The physicists will create individual synthetic coronavirus particles without a genome, making the virus incapable of infection or replication. The researchers will test how the structure of the coronavirus withstands changes in humidity and temperature, and under what conditions the virus falls apart.

-Lead scientists: Michael Vershinin, PhD, Saveez Saffarian, PhD

 

A drug to block infection

One thing we really need is a medicine that prevents or treats COVID-19. Biochemists at U of U Health are working toward that goal by repurposing a strategy they developed against another infectious disease, HIV. Their trick is to build mirror images of pieces of proteins, called D-peptides. These little chemicals are designed to jam the infection process; because D-peptides aren’t found in nature, they aren’t degraded by the body. This could mean that one dose could last a long time, simplifying treatment and lowering cost. Getting new drugs approved can be a lengthy process, so this approach may not help with the current outbreak. That’s why the scientists are simultaneously creating a broad inhibitor that could be effective against other new coronaviruses.

-Lead scientists: Debra Eckert, PhD, Michael, Kay, PhD

 

Origins of the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2

Bats are rife with coronaviruses, most of which are likely harmless to people. Scientists have found that these viruses can exchange pieces of genetic information with each other, giving rise to viruses that cause outbreaks in humans. To identify the role these exchanges may have played in the origin of SARS-CoV-2, researchers in the Department of Human Genetics are scouring the virus’ genome to find regions that have changed recently. This can determine whether genetic exchange could have empowered the virus to infect us and evade our immune defenses. Understanding how docile viruses turn deadly could one day inspire new ideas to stop them.

-Lead scientists: Stephen Goldstein, PhD, Nels Elde, PhD

   

Who should be tested for COVID-19?

A limited number of COVID-19 tests are available due to international shortages of supplies to make them. In this situation, it is best to reserve testing for individuals who are most at risk for having the disease and developing severe symptoms. But who are they? Using mathematical models of disease spread and clinical data from those who have already been tested, infectious disease physicians are developing an online calculator. Plug in medical data and out comes a score indicating the likelihood that the patient will test positive. If the score is high, she should be tested. If the score is low, she can monitor symptoms at home (calling in if they change), potentially preserving a precious test.

-Lead scientist: Daniel Leung, MD, MSc

 

Planning for a better future                                               

If we could see that the future looks dire, we might be able to strategize ways to change it. Epidemiologists are creating models based on what is known about transmission of the new coronavirus and combining those models with census data. The result? An indication of when the disease might enter different parts of the country, along with an expected number of cases. With this virtual world, scientists can then determine how outcomes might change when people take precautions like social distancing. Scientists are also developing hospital-specific scenarios to anticipate needs for beds, masks, ventilators, and other precious items in limited supply. With these data, the hope is to shift the future from ominous to optimistic.

-Lead scientist: Lindsay Keegan, PhD




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Released: 13-Jul-2020 4:05 PM EDT
OADN & AACN Secure No-Cost Access to COVID-19 Screening Solution Until Vaccines Become Widely Available
Organization for Associate Degree Nursing (OADN)

OADN & AACN Secure No-Cost Access to COVID-19 Screening Solution Until Vaccines Become Widely Available

Newswise: Study suggests lymphoma drug acalabrutinib might offer a potential therapeutic approach for severe COVID-19 infection
Released: 13-Jul-2020 3:45 PM EDT
Study suggests lymphoma drug acalabrutinib might offer a potential therapeutic approach for severe COVID-19 infection
Hackensack Meridian Health

The mechanisms of action of acalabrutinib led to the hypothesis it might be effective in reducing the massive inflammatory response seen severe forms of COVID19. Indeed, it did provide clinical benefit in a small group of patients by reducing their inflammatory parameters and improving their oxygenation.

Newswise: National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory Unites DOE Labs Against COVID-19
Released: 13-Jul-2020 3:40 PM EDT
National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory Unites DOE Labs Against COVID-19
Department of Energy, Office of Science

To focus its efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic, DOE is bringing the national laboratories together into the National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory.

Newswise: Key Insights from Swedish Casino that Remained Open During COVID-19
Released: 13-Jul-2020 3:40 PM EDT
Key Insights from Swedish Casino that Remained Open During COVID-19
University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)

As casinos in Las Vegas enter the second month of reopening since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, UNLV gaming researchers say they can draw upon insights from industry collaborators in Sweden, a country that took a more open approach to the crisis compared to other governments.

Released: 13-Jul-2020 3:05 PM EDT
Asymptomatic Transmission and Reinfection of COVID: Live Event for July 16, 2PM EDT
Newswise

Emerging data shows more risk of asymptomatic transmission and reinfection with COVID than previously thought. Experts will discuss these findings and what are the implications for managing the pandemic. Media are invited to attend and ask questions.

Released: 13-Jul-2020 2:40 PM EDT
Engineered llama antibodies neutralize COVID-19 virus
Rosalind Franklin Institute

Antibodies derived from llamas have been shown to neutralise the SARS-CoV-2 virus in lab tests, UK researchers announced today.

Released: 13-Jul-2020 1:25 PM EDT
1 in 3 young adults may face severe COVID-19
University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

As the number of young adults infected with the coronavirus surges throughout the nation, a new study by researchers at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals indicates that youth may not shield people from serious disease.

Released: 13-Jul-2020 12:25 PM EDT
Scientists discover key element of strong antibody response to COVID-19
Scripps Research Institute

A team led by scientists at Scripps Research has discovered a common molecular feature found in many of the human antibodies that neutralize SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Released: 13-Jul-2020 11:15 AM EDT
UTHealth joins study of blood pressure medication’s effect on improving COVID-19 outcomes
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

An interventional therapy aimed at improving survival chances and reducing the need for critical care treatment due to COVID-19 is being investigated by physicians at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). The clinical trial is underway at Memorial Hermann and Harris Health System’s Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital.


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