Research Briefs - November

Nov 21, 2016, 07:53 AM by User Not Found
There has been a three-fold increase in prescriptions of opiate painkillers among older adults for chronic pain not related to cancer. Yong Fang Kuo, PhD, and Dr. Mukaila Raji, professors of internal medicine in the Division of Geriatric Medicine, were awarded $1.4 million from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to conduct the first nationally representative study to examine variations in use of opiates in older adults and their relationship to outcomes, different state regulations and federal policy. The study will examine changes in prevalence, duration and dose of opiate use with a particular focus on policy changes for Medicare beneficiaries. The researchers will also assess differences in rates of opiate use across health care providers and determine patient and provider factors associated with opiate prescription. Lastly, the team will investigate the risk of adverse outcomes for opiate use, including falls, fractures, emergency room visits, hospital admissions and transition to assisted care facilities.

New research by Dr. Ravi S. Radhakrishnan, associate professor of surgery and pediatrics and the John Sealy Distinguished Chair in Clinical Research, found that health insurance coverage and socioeconomic status could be indicators of mortality from sepsis in newborns. He presented his findings from a nationwide study at the 2016 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons in Washington, D.C. Researchers analyzed data from 3 million pediatric discharges over the course of three years, finding that higher numbers of newborns die from sepsis if their families have low income or no health insurance. These factors maybe used to flag pregnant women whose infants may benefit from early intervention to protect against sepsis. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, sepsis in the early days of life is the seventh leading cause of death among infants in the U.S. UTMB’s Dr. Frederick J. Bohanon; Deepak Adhikari; Hemalkumar B. Mehta, PhD; Dr. Omar Nunez Lopez; Jonathan Wang; and Dr. Kanika A. Bowen-Jallow, also participated in the study.
An estimated 50 to 100 million people are infected with dengue each year, resulting in nearly 500,000 severe life-threatening illnesses and 25,000 deaths. Pei-Yong Shi, PhD, professor of human genetics, has been awarded $460,000 from Gilead Sciences Inc. to characterize and profile compounds that Gilead has identified as having antiviral activity against dengue. There are currently no approved antivirals for the prevention or treatment of dengue infection. This research will provide the data needed for further development of the identified antivirals.
Although news coverage about the Zika virus began to slow in September, several UTMB scientists have stayed busy conducting research about the virus and speaking to reporters. Scott Weaver, PhD; Nikos Vasilakis, PhD; Mariano Garcia-Blanco, MD, PhD; and Shannan Rossi, PhD, were interviewed in October by reporters from The New York Times, Scientific American, Newsday, The Associated Press, The Verge and The Scientist. In addition, a film crew from the PBS science program, “NOVA,” was on the UTMB Galveston Campus in late September to shoot a program that will feature the history of Zika. UTMB researchers Dr. Bob Tesh and Weaver will be featured in the program. No broadcast date has been set.

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