Research Briefs

Mar 21, 2016, 08:29 AM by User Not Found


Patricia Aguilar, PhD,
assistant professor of Pathology, has found that a recently discovered virus is able to spread to healthy neighboring cells by a mechanism previously unseen in other arthropod-borne viruses. Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS) virus, a tick-borne bunyavirus discovered in China that causes severe fever and can lead to death, was first described by a team of scientists, including UTMB experts, in 2011. Since then, Aguilar’s team has found that, while SFTS virus does infect cells in what is considered the conventional manner, the virus is also able to manipulate extracellular vesicles—fluid-like sacs typically used for cell-to-cell communication—to help it spread to uninfected host cells. This is something that has not been seen and described before for any other enveloped arthropod-borne virus. Discovery of this novel use of extracellular vesicles by the virus could have important implications in the development of vaccines and treatments. SFTSvirus can cause those infected to suffer from symptoms related to hemorrhagic fever and is deadly in about 30 percent of cases. It is found in China and other Asian countries. In the U.S., a similar virus, Heartland virus, has also recently been described. The study’s findings appear in the Journal of Virology.

Dr. Amitesh Agarwal, fellow in the UTMB Division of Pulmonary Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, and colleagues are the first to examine differences in care given to patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease by medical doctors compared with nurse practitioners and physician assistants. To meet a growing need for primary care providers, many health systems are looking at alternate models of care by expanding the workforce of advance practice providers, or APPs, which include nurse practitioners and physician assistants. APPs are increasingly contributing to the care of those with health conditions requiring lifelong management, such as COPD, diabetes, high blood pressure and others. For the study, records of 7,257 Medicare COPD patients who had at least one hospitalization in 2010 were reviewed. Researchers were looking for differences in the medical care given by the two types of providers and outcomes of patients. They found that APPs were more likely to prescribe short-acting inhalers or oxygen therapy and to consult with a pulmonary specialist, but less likely to give flu and pneumonia vaccinations compared to physicians. Patients receiving care from APPs had lower rates of ER visits for COPD and a higher follow-up rate with a pulmonologist within 30 days of hospitalization for COPD than those cared for by a physician. The researchers’ findings appear in the journal Plos One.

Kenneth Ottenbacher, PhD, professor in the School of Health Professions and associate director of the UTMB Sealy Center on Aging, has received funding from the National Institute of Health to exam health outcomes in Hispanics. The grant, “Long-term Health Outcomes in Mexican American Older Adults,” provides $1.55 million over four years to study the use of health care resources, outcomes and costs in Mexican Americans age 65 and older living in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and California. Information collected over the past 20 years by investigators at UTMB will be analyzed for approximately 2,500 participants in an ongoing field-based survey studying the natural history of aging in the Hispanic population.The research will help to better understand frailty and health-related outcomes in older Mexican Americans.

Scott Weaver, PhD, was awarded more than $3.7 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to support the World Reference Center for Emerging Viruses and Arboviruses. This reference center is a comprehensive, diverse collection of over 6,700 virus strains in 21 families, as well as antisera, antigens and other reagents to enable research worldwide.The funds will be used to maintain a comprehensive set of emerging viruses, arboviruses and associated reagents to support research and surveillance; discover, isolate and characterize newly acquired viruses; perform analyses of selected virus groups to determine evolutionary histories and emergence mechanisms, patterns of spread and infection, and to rapidly determine the sources of new outbreaks; and to train scientists in the identification and characterization of emerging viruses and arboviruses.

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