The Fight Against COVID-19: What’s Happening in Miami?
The University of Miami Health System is providing care to South Florida residents with COVID-19, while our clinicians and research scientists are developing accurate and rapid tests, seeking effective treatments, informing the public about risks and prevention, and working toward a vaccine.
Prevention & Vaccines
UM Tests Antibody “Cocktail” Drug Regeneron
The UM Miller School of Medicine began a new clinical trial to test a monoclonal antibody drug (Regeneron) to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among people who may have been exposed by an infected household member. UM’s site will enroll 100 volunteers in the trial. Volunteers need to be at least 12 years of age and asymptomatic of COVID-19, and must enroll in the study within 96 hours of known exposure to a household member with COVID. For more information about eligibility for the study, call 305-243-5684.
Learn more (published October 12, 2020)
UM Begins Second COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trial
Physician-researchers with the UM Miller School of Medicine have begun a new Phase 3 clinical trial to test another investigational vaccine for COVID-19. Part of a large-scale international trial in partnership with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the trial is testing the Janssen vaccine. The study will enroll up to 60,000 volunteers across three continents. At the Miller School site, researchers plan to enroll up to 1,500 racially and ethnically diverse volunteers in South Florida.
Learn more (published September 28, 2020)
Early Vaccine Lab Tests Show Promising Responses
In collaboration with Heat Diagnostics, UM researchers are working toward the development of an effective and safe COVID-19 vaccine. According to Natasa Strbo, M.D., D.Sc., who is leading the Miller School research team, the latest laboratory study showed that the test vaccine can stimulate T-cell immune responses in the airways and lungs in preclinical testing. “This is crucial in protecting against COVID-19, since these T-cells in the respiratory system are the first to encounter the virus.”
Learn more (published September 2, 2020)
Advanced Protocols Keep Endoscopy Patients and Staff Safe from COVID-19
One of the challenges of the pandemic has been uncertainty about how to safely resume elective procedures such as endoscopy. Researchers at the Miller School of Medicine are helping to address this concern by reporting on their experience with a successful pre-procedural protocol they tested on nearly 400 endoscopy patients. Their results suggest that extensive screening questionnaires are effective for identifying high-risk patients whose procedures should be delayed.
Learn more (published June 8, 2020)
Advances in Treatment
COVID-19 Affects Far More Than the Lungs
UM doctors and researchers have published a paper identifying the many manifestations of COVID-19 infection on the body. The study reveals that COVID-19 is associated with dangerous blood clots; blockages in arteries in the lungs, limbs, and brain; musculoskeletal issues; neurologic symptoms including stroke, altered mental status, and Guillain-Barré syndrome; muscle pain; weakness; diarrhea; abdominal pain; and vomiting. COVID-19 may also cause a cytokine storm that can lead to multiorgan system failure. This broader understanding of all the possible manifestations of this novel virus can help healthcare providers improve patient outcomes.
Learn more (published September 2, 2020)
Can Convalescent Plasma Treat COVID-19 Disease?
UM investigators have launched a phase 2 clinical trial to study if convalescent plasma containing SARS-CoV-2 antibodies is effective in helping people who are sick with COVID-19 fight the virus. The goal of the study is to determine if convalescent plasma can prevent the development or reduce the severity of breathing symptoms in people with COVID-19. This would reduce the need for additional oxygen, mechanical ventilation and admission to the intensive care unit.
Learn more (published August 21, 2020)
Remote Monitoring Devices Allow UHealth to Safely Monitor Some COVID-19 Patients from Home
The Televigilance program arms discharged COVID-19 patients with TytoCare home health devices at no charge. These devices electronically monitor patients’ temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen saturation — and regularly transmits these vital signs to their UHealth doctor. If the provider sees data that concerns them, they can follow up with a telemedicine visit and conduct a thorough examination. Patients use device adapters to allow their UHealth provider to remotely examine their heart, lungs, skin, mouth, and ears.
Learn more (published August 4, 2020)
Can Anti-Inflammatory Drug Aviptadil Treat Respiratory Distress?
Infectious disease experts with UHealth and the Miller School of Medicine began a clinical trial using Aviptadil to treat COVID-19 patients with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). Deaths due to the virus are primarily the result of ARDS, which is severe inflammation that causes the lungs to fill with fluid, and even mechanical ventilation is unable to maintain life. This syndrome is caused by a cytokine storm unleashed by viral particles. Studies have shown that the drug Aviptadil has potent anti-cytokine effects. UM’s clinical trial will study COVID-19 patients who are already on mechanical ventilation. The hope is that Aviptadil can improve the ability of patients’ lung to transfer oxygen to the body—and ultimately save lives.
Learn more (published May 13, 2020)
Blood Clots Can Be a Sign of COVID-19 Infection
A new paper by UM vascular surgeons describes how thrombosis (blood clots in the circulatory system) was an early indication of COVID-19 infection in at least one patient. This case helps prove that coronavirus is not solely a respiratory disease. Healthcare providers must be alert when patients have acute limb ischemia but no risk factors. While COVID-19 is certainly a respiratory virus, we need to look out for excessive clotting.
Learn more (published September 3, 2020)
How COVID-19 Affects the Heart Following Recovery
If you tested positive for COVID-19, you may wonder if your heart was damaged by the virus. Those with chronic health issues like hypertension, diabetes, and cancer may be at particularly high risk for heart damage following infection with the virus. Up to a third of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 experience injury to the heart’s muscle tissues. A new COVID-19 Heart Program developed by cardiologists at the Miller School of Medicine is addressing these concerns with comprehensive screenings and evaluations that examine how the coronavirus can affect the heart and surrounding tissues. To make an appointment for the COVID-19 Heart Program, call 305-2-HEART-U (305-243-2788).
Learn more (published July 10, 2020)
Mental, Emotional, and Sexual Health
How Does COVID-19 Infection Affect Male Sex Organs?
Studies show that up to 20% of men with asymptomatic COVID-19 infection develop an inflammatory infection called orchitis in one or both testes. To determine the interaction of the virus with semen, the University of Miami is leading a unique study of men who tested positive for COVID-19. There are 35 men currently enrolled, and the researchers seek to enroll a total of 200 men who tested positive. The researchers want to identify how long the virus lasts in semen and investigate whether COVID-19 infection leads to orchitis and male infertility. They hypothesize that the novel coronavirus, if present in the semen, may possibly be transmitted to others through sexual activity. Men who have tested positive for the virus and are interested in participating in this crucial research can email [email protected] or call 305-243-6630 for more information.
Learn more (published May 27, 2020)
The Effects of Physical Distancing on Loneliness, Mental Health
Existing research has shown that loneliness is growing as an ominous public health concern and can be deadly. Researchers at UM have received a rapid-response grant from the university to gain an understanding of the psychosocial impacts of COVID-19 on adults age 18 to 35. The study includes measures of loneliness, anxiety, depression, social connectedness, and substance use behaviors. The researchers aim to determine how behaviors and mental health have changed since COVID-19 recommendations/restrictions have been implemented.
Learn more (published May 15, 2020)
Communicating with Hearing-Impaired People While Wearing a Mask
Wearing masks and physical distancing can cause unique challenges for people with hearing loss who rely on lip reading, facial expressions, and unobstructed vocal sounds to understand others. Audiology and public health experts at the Miller School of Medicine and the Hispanic Hearing Healthcare Access Coalition strongly recommend that communities take special measures to continue staying connected with people who are deaf and hearing impaired. Here’s what you can do to improve your communications with those who are hard of hearing.
Learn more (published May 12, 2020)
The Psychosocial Impact of the Pandemic on Latino Queer Men
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, UM health experts, public health scientists, and mental health professionals were studying how Latino men who have sex with men engage in services for HIV-prevention, mental health, and substance use. Since the pandemic developed, the researchers developed the Pandemic Stress Index tool to better understand COVID-19’s impact on this population. Early findings reveal that the lives of Latino queer men have been substantially affected by recent increases in psychosocial difficulties including depression, anxiety, loneliness, substance use, and lack of social support.
Learn more (published May 7, 2020)
Irritable Bowel Disease Does Not Increase COVID-19 Infection Risk
“When the COVID-19 epidemic began, there was a lot of concern among patients and their treating physicians about whether patients who had irritable bowel disease (IBD) would be particularly susceptible to COVID-19, either as a result of having intestinal inflammation or as a result of the medications that they were taking,” said UHealth gastroenterologist Dr. Maria Abreu. After completing studies of UHealth patients, the doctor and colleagues confirmed that intestinal inflammation and the medications used to treat these GI conditions are not associated with a greater likelihood of coronavirus infection.
Learn more (published May 14, 2020)
The Impact of COVID-19 on HIV Patients
HIV patients live with a chronic, potentially deadly disease, and COVID-19 has only made their lives more difficult. In addition to adding a health threat, the coronavirus has isolated people and stripped them of their livelihoods, with potentially tragic consequences. To understand these new dynamics, researchers at the Miller School of Medicine are studying the physical and mental health impacts the coronavirus is having on this vulnerable population and the best ways to help them. Miami-Dade County is home to more than 26,000 people living with HIV, and the region has the highest rate of new cases in the U.S.
Learn more (published June 4, 2020)
Advances in Testing
Developing a Patient-Friendly Rapid Test for COVID-19
To help identify the spread of COVID-19 in communities worldwide, biomedical researchers at the Miller School of Medicine are developing a more patient-friendly test. Designed to diagnose the coronavirus in less than 30 minutes, the patented test is currently under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The rapid test uses a simple throat swab to deliver on-the-spot results on a paper strip and is designed for cost-effective mass production and use around the world. The research needed to develop this fast and accurate COVID-19 test is supported by a generous donation from the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation.
Learn more (published May 14, 2020)
Compiled by Dana Kantrowitz, contributing writer for UMiami Health News.