After a successful run that spanned five decades, the final Impact was published in January 2020.  Impact was UTMB Health’s employee newsletter. It evolved from a one color printed tabloid newspaper to a full color magazine with a digital component. We’ve archived the past several years on these pages for your review and enjoyment.

graphic linking to this edition's research briefs

Research Briefs

Jan 13, 2020, 01:10 AM by UTMB Media Relations Team

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


Higher vaccine dose protects from Zika virus in mice 
UTMB researchers showed, for the first time, that a single, higher dose of vaccination to a pregnant mouse safely protects both her and her fetus from the Zika virus.

The researchers found that a single, less potent dose was not enough to protect the fetus. The findings are currently available in Nature Communications.

“Preventing birth defects in developing fetuses is an important goal of the
Zika virus vaccine, but studies on vaccinations in pregnant females have
been lacking, raising a number of important questions that are critical to
the clinical development and regulatory approval of Zika vaccines,” said
Dr. Pei-Yong Shi, senior author and the I.H. Kempner professor in UTMB’s department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

“Could vaccination during pregnancy protect against infection and transmission to the fetus? Does pregnancy affect immune responses to Zika vaccination? Does maternal immunity from vaccination during pregnancy protect newborns against infection?”

Shi and his laboratory previously developed a Zika vaccine and continue
studies to improve its efficacy.

Medicare disability beneficiaries a growing group prone to opioid overdose deaths
New findings show that patients qualifying for Medicare because of a disability have the highest rates of opioid overdose deaths compared with older Medicare beneficiaries and commercial insurance beneficiaries.

The findings are now available in JAMA Network Open. The study, led by Dr. Yong-Fang Kuo, UTMB professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Population Health, found that Medicare beneficiaries who qualify because of a disability are a growing group of patients hospitalized for opioid or heroin overdose and account for 25 percent of deaths from prescription opioid overdose each year.

Previous research shows that not many of these patients make use of
opioid treatment programs.

Higher risk of cancer found in those living near refineries
UTMB research presented at the Society of Urologic Oncology found that
individuals living within 10 miles of a refinery had a 12 percent higher risk
of bladder cancer compared to those living 21 miles to 30 miles away.

“It doesn’t say everyone should move away from Texas, or out of the state
of Texas, but it supports further research,” said Dr. Stephen Williams,
assistant professor in the Department of Surgery- Urology. Read more about the research at

Hispanics diagnosed with cervical cancer at higher rates in U.S.
With prevention and screening, the number of cases of cervical cancer
diagnosed have been declining, but not in all populations. Hispanics living in the United States are 35 percent more likely than non-
Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 24 percent more likely to die from the disease.

“What really, really hurts my heart is to see young women dying from this disease,” says Dr. Ana Rodriquez, a UTMB obstetrician and gynecologist. “It
is a preventable disease” with prevention and screening.

Read more about the research at https://www.knowablemagazine.