Research Briefs

May 17, 2016, 10:09 AM by User Not Found

An interdisciplinary research team has made a discovery that could lead to the development of a treatment for a deadly virus spread by rodents. Thomas Geisbert, PhD, professor of Microbiology and Immunology, reports that a laboratory-engineered antibody provided complete protection against the deadly Junin virus responsible for Argentine hemorrhagic fever. There are no FDA-approved drugs available for preventing or treating this disease, which has a mortality rate of 20 to 30 percent when left untreated. The relatively slow onset of this disease with its unspecific symptoms that may delay diagnosis, coupled with its devastating hemorrhagic phase, make Junin virus a serious threat to public health. What makes the study unique is that the researchers observed complete protection against death even when treatment was delayed six days after Junin virus infection when animals were showing signs of disease. This recent success of the antibody therapy against Junin virus is a key step in its development as a therapeutic for use in people. The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Jacques Baillargeon, PhD, professor of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, has found that older men using testosterone therapy were less likely to have complications that require them to go back to the hospital within a month of being discharged than men not using this therapy. The overall rate of 30-day hospital readmissions was 9.8 percent for testosterone users and 13 percent for non-users. This decline was stronger for emergency readmissions, with a rate of 6.2 percent for testosterone users and 10 percent for non-users. Testosterone deficiency is associated with muscle loss and overall health decline, rendering older men with low testosterone particularly vulnerable to “post-hospital syndrome.” Testosterone therapy, which increases muscle mass and strength, is reported to improve mobility, functional health and exercise capacity in older men with low testosterone. Given the importance of potentially avoidable hospital readmissions among older adults, further exploration of this intervention holds broad clinical and public health relevance. Reducing avoidable hospital readmissions is a national health priority and a major focus of health care reform in the United States. The study appears in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Antonio Saad, MD, fellow in Maternal Fetal Medicine, found that consuming too much fructose during pregnancy raises the child’s risk for heart disease. The UTMB study found that when pregnant mice drink only water sweetened with fructose, a common sweetener in foods and beverages, their offspring have several more risk factors for heart disease, compared with mice who drank only water throughout pregnancy. Throughout their pregnancy, the researchers gave pregnant mice either only water or a 10 percent fructose drink that mimics the level of fructose in most soft drinks. Otherwise, the diets were the same for both the water and fructose groups. After weaning, the pups were provided water and a normal mouse diet and evaluated after a year. A year is considered middle aged for mice since their life expectancy is about two years. The team found that when the mother has a high intake of fructose in her diet throughout pregnancy, her offspring is more at risk of developing adult obesity, high blood pressure and metabolic dysfunction, all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. This effect is more pronounced in female offspring. The findings appear in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Ashok Chopra, PhD, professor of Microbiology and Immunology, has found that non-antibiotic therapeutic drugs already approved for other purposes in people could be effective in fighting antibiotic-resistant pathogens. While antibiotics have been highly effective at treating infectious diseases, infectious bacteria have adapted to them and antibiotics have become less effective. The rise of antibiotic-resistant bacterial pathogens is an increasingly global threat to public health. In the United States alone, antibiotic-resistant bacterial pathogens kill thousands every year. Chopra and his team started looking at other molecules that could have some effect in killing such antibiotic-resistant bacteria. By screening a library of 780 Food and Drug Administration-approved therapeutics, they were able to identify as many as 94 drugs that were significantly effective in a cell-culture system when tested against Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that cause the plague and which is becoming antibiotic resistant. After further screening, three drugs—trifluoperazine, anantipsychotic; doxapram, a breathing stimulant; and amoxapine, an anti-depressant—were used in a mouse model and were found to be effective in treating plague. In further experiments, trifluoperazine was successfully used to treat Salmonella enterica and Clostridium difficile infections, both of which are listed as drug-resistant bacteria of serious threat by the CDC. The study’s findings appear in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

Compiled from press releases written by Donna Ramirez and Christopher Smith Gonzalez. Find out more at