Saliva-based SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing

As the Atlanta area recovers from Zeta, we’d like to highlight this Journal of Clinical Microbiology paper about saliva-based SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing. It was a collaboration between the Hope Clinic and investigators at Johns Hopkins, led by epidemiologist Christopher Heaney. Infectious disease specialists Matthew Collins, Nadine Rouphael and several colleagues from Emory are co-authors. They organized the collection of saliva and blood samples from Emory COVID-19 patients at several stages: being tested, hospitalized, and recovered. Read more

Peeling away pancreatic cancers' defenses

A combination immunotherapy approach that gets through pancreatic cancers’ extra Read more

Immune cell activation in severe COVID-19 resembles lupus

In severe cases of COVID-19, Emory researchers have been observing an exuberant activation of B cells, resembling acute flares in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disease. The findings point towards tests that could separate some COVID-19 patients who need immune-calming therapies from others who may not. It also may begin to explain why some people infected with SARS-CoV-2 produce abundant antibodies against the virus, yet experience poor outcomes. The results were published online on Oct. Read more

air pollution

EPA Administrator Jackson leads town hall on children’s health

People don’t think of the Environmental Protection Agency as a public health agency, says EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, but the EPA’s job is to protect the health of adults and children by safeguarding air and water and promoting clean communities. Jackson was the keynote speaker last week at a Children’s Health Town Hall at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health.

Children eat more, drink more, and breathe more in proportion to their body weight than adults, and without the EPA our jobs as parents would be much more difficult, said Jackson. And although a renewed focus on reducing air pollution has significantly improved air quality, still millions of young people have asthma and are particularly susceptible to pollution, and there have been no limits on some pollutants, such as mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Last month the EPA presented the first national mercury and air toxicity standards for power plants, Jackson noted. This effort to cut emssions of mercury, arsenic, and other neurotoxins is a common sense goal that would save lives and prevent 17,000 premature deaths annually, she said.

Laura Seydel, Paige Tolbert , Stephanie Owens, EPA

The EPA recently named Emory and Georgia Tech as one of four new EPA Clean Air Research Centers and awarded $8 million to the new Southeastern Center for Air Pollution and Epidemiology (SCAPE) center. Center directors Paige Tolbert from Emory and Armistead (Ted) Russell from Georgia Tech will lead programs aimed at quantifying health effects from air mixtures containing toxic pollutants and studying the specific effects of toxic air on commuters, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with cardiac illnesses.

Russell noted the tremendous cost of air pollution, including millions of lost school days for asthmatic children, and the important of using study results as the basis for changes in policy.

A “Call to Action” panel of experts and advocates at the town hall suggested steps everyone can take to improve environmental health.

Environmental health champion Laura Seydel called for “zero waste zones” in homes, churches, and offices, and the outlawing of toxic chemicals to help create “zero toxic waste zones” in the bodies of adults and children.

Laura Seydel, Robert Geller

Dr. Robert Geller, director of the Southeast Pediatric Environmental Health Speciality Unit at Emory, and Director of the Georgia Poison Center, emphasized the importance of lowering exposure to toxic chemicals for children in the first two years of life, including contaminated soil. Civic leaders should expect the EPA to use the best science to advance its programs of reducing pollution.

Irene Barton of the Georgia PTA recommended using local school wellness councils to advocate for children.

Attorney Brian Gist of the Southern Environmental Law Center warned about mercury toxicity in Georgia fish and in sushi, and applauded efforts to regulate emission of mercury from coal-fired power plants.

Maeve Howett, an Emory pediatric nurse practitioner and a faculty member in Emory’s School of Nursing, encouraged everyone to make a personal commitment to choosing transportation that is less harmful to the environment, for the sake of children with asthma.

A videocast of the town hall is available.

 

 

 

 

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Dog days of summer bring ozone challenges

Surviving the heat isn’t the only concern for people in Atlanta during the dog days of summer, the hottest time of the year in the northern hemisphere from early July to mid-August. During this time, ozone levels peak in most industrialized cities, and heavily populated areas tend to be more at risk for pollution, in part, because of increased emissions from cars, trucks and factories.

Cars on the road

Cars on the road

Cherry Wongtrakool, MD, specialist in pulmonary medicine, says pollution is generally broken down into ozone and particulate matter, but can also include carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Particulate matter is complex and includes organic chemicals including acid, metals, dust, smoke and soil. It is often classified by size and particles less than 10 micrometers are included in the air quality index, a common measure of the air pollution level.

In addition to increasing symptoms of asthma and causing respiratory symptoms like cough and shortness of breath, Wongtrakool says pollution has been associated with cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses.

She notes that studies to date suggest long-term exposure may accelerate atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Larger population studies have also suggested there are associations between air pollution and increased risk for cancer, and air pollution and increased risk of death secondary to cardiopulmonary causes.

Wongtrakool, who is sssistant professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, Emory School of  Medicine, says if you live in a big city like Atlanta, you can reduce your exposure to air pollution by limiting your time in the car, remaining indoors during the hottest part of the day – typically afternoon and early evening – and reducing time spent doing outdoor activity, particularly activity requiring heavy exertion. People with underlying lung disease should avoid going out when the air quality index is poor, she advises.

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