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How do pandemics begin? There's a new theory — and a new strategy to thwart them

Scientists really haven't had the tools — or funding — to detect new viruses inside people, said Dr. Gregory Gray, who's an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. “We probably have novel viruses in North America infecting people who work a lot with animals, especially domestic animals,” he said. “We're just missing them because we don't often have the tools to pick them up.”

How a Black veteran desegregated a Texas medical school

Herman A. Barnett III, a Black veteran, desegregated the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in 1949. Technically, Barnett was admitted to the school on a contract basis — to uphold racial segregation, the university leadership planned to build an entirely separate medical school for Black students where Barnett would be required to transfer. But that school was never built, and Barnett graduated from UTMB in 1953.

Marburg virus outbreak: What to know about the signs and symptoms

The WHO says monoclonal antibodies being developed or antivirals that have been used in clinical trials for Ebola virus disease could also potentially be tested for Marburg virus disease. “There are several experimental treatments that have been shown to protect animals against lethal Marburg virus infection,” said Thomas Geisbert, PhD, a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

Bird Flu has taken out millions of chickens and turkeys. What that means for humans.

Past avian flus have moved from birds to other animals, but the number of mammals that have been infected recently is unusual, said Dr. Gregory C. Gray, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. “There’s concern that it could further change and jump to humans,” he said.

UTMB students train people to save overdose victims

What has become a major push among local groups to get information and life-saving medication into the community to fight a crisis of fentanyl overdoses and poisoning continued Saturday with a presentation about recognizing the signs of overdose and using Narcan. Taking Our Best Shot, a University of Texas Medical Branch student-led initiative held the first of several community health seminars Feb. 11 in Texas City.

Robots are making COVID testing faster, safer at UTMB

Robots are making COVID-19 antibody tests for research and diagnostics faster and safer at the University of Texas Medical Branch, officials said. The benefit of having robots conduct the tests is that it will eliminate the risk staff members face from infection and produces tests at higher rates, said Dr. Michael Laposata, professor and chairman of the department of Pathology at the medical branch.

World's largest collection of viruses: Inside the massive biodefense lab in Houston area

The largest collection of viruses in the world is protected and studied inside a massive biodefense lab. The largest high-containment lab of its kind in the country is in the Houston area. The Galveston National Laboratory isn't exactly a secret, but it's not open to the public either. “I’m proud of the work that the scientists are doing here, said Dr. Gary Kobinger, lab director. “I’m just one of the supporters, let's say. There are a lot of great scientists doing the work.”

Communication is key to form deeper connections

“One of the greatest gifts we can give people is our time and attention,” wrote Dr. Samuel Mathis. “The feelings of love and connection grow when we actively set aside time for others with curious engagement.”

Brain cells in a lab dish can play pong

Recent research reported in the journal Neuron has reported that brain cells in culture have been taught to play Pong, wrote Drs. Norbert Herzog and David Niesel in Medical Discovery News. Human neurons were better at Pong than mouse neurons, by the way.

Here's how long the flu is actually contagious, according to doctors

Dr. Megan Berman, an internal medicine doctor and associate professor of general medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch, explains that the flu is primarily spread through respiratory droplets, AKA very small droplets made when someone infected coughs, sneezes or talks. “They find their way to someone’s mouth or nose nearby,” she said, adding that the flu can also be spread through kissing or sharing eating utensils.

Why U.S. odds are stacked against a promising new COVID drug

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a single injection of a so-called interferon drug slashed by half a COVID patient’s odds of being hospitalized. The New York Times interviewed top experts not involved in the study for comments. In targeting patients’ immune responses, rather than the virus itself, those treatments potentially offered another advantage over existing treatments, reducing the chance that a variant would evolve that could resist the drug, said Vineet Menachery, an immunologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Robots help tackle COVID by automating testing, research and diagnostics

ABB Robotics has developed an automated neutralizing antibody testing system with the University of Texas Medical Branch that is “the most effective means” of determining an individual’s immunity to various strains of COVID. “The ability to carry out more daily tests is the key to generating more data on individual immunity profiles that will help control the further spread of the virus,” said Dr. Michael Laposata, professor and chairman of the department of Pathology at UTMB.

Schools, doctors work to prevent fentanyl overdoses among students

As fentanyl-related deaths rise among Texas students, school districts across the county are raising awareness about the synthetic drug and stocking school clinic shelves with Narcan, an opioid overdose preventative. Some school districts this week also have been working closely with University of Texas Medical Branch doctors to receive written physician’s orders for Narcan, providing an extra layer of protection in the case of overdoses on campuses.

Texas City library, medical students team up to prevent overdoses

“Taking Our Best Shot has presented hands-on presentations to the community in the past and we surveyed some students who suggested we talk about opioids and Narcan administration,” said Dorothea Morris, the organizer for Taking Our Best Shot and a University of Texas Medical Branch doctoral candidate. “We believe these presentations are important for community awareness.”

Space Medicine with Drs. Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Michael Barratt

The Curbside Consults podcast episode featured aerospace medicine with two physicians who are double-boarded in internal and aerospace medicine and are also NASA astronauts. Dr. Auñón-Chancellor recently served as Flight Engineer on the International Space Station for Expeditions 56 and 57. She is an internist at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and program director for the University of Texas Medical Branch Aerospace Medicine Residency.

Doc rock: Angleton physician has played concert series for 30 years

Dr. Anthony Scott Rogers will again perform his annual Valentine’s Day to support the UTMB Health Angleton Danbury Auxiliary. “It’s always been sort of involved with the Auxiliary,” Rogers said. “It was a venue for a little bit of fundraising. We didn’t really hit that too hard. Mainly it’s been kind of a fun event, but we always had donations for the event and sometimes we did pretty good. I know there were times we made $3,000 or $4,000 — and sometimes we made $300 or $400. It didn’t matter, we were just having the event.”

Mass shootings & gun violence in America: What can be done?

Psychologist Dr. Jeff Temple, director of the Center for Violence Prevention at UTMB Health, joined the program Townsquare to share his thoughts on the statistics of gun violence in the United States and what needs to be done to prevent more tragedies.

Parents must ask: Is football worth the risk of devastating injury?

Dr. Brent E. Masel of Galveston, professor of neurology at the University of Texas Medical Branch, and national medical director of the Brain Injury Association of America, believes parents should be aware of CTE and understand its risks. “As a practicing neurologist, I’ll see many sad issues, but not much is worse than one of my favorite patients who is slowly dying from the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy,” Masel said.

COVID vaccine can decrease chances of developing long COVID

“If for no other reason, people who are not current with their vaccinations should consider getting vaccinated to decrease their chances of developing post-COVID conditions,” wrote Drs. Megan Berman and Richard Rupp in their Vaccine Smarts column.

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