FoMD in the News

A round-up of news stories involving the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

ROSS NEITZ - 28 May 2020

This is a roundup of relevant news and media stories involving the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. We appreciate you relaying information that is relevant to faculty members in your respective areas.


Edmonton Journal: Cancer treatment developed at U of A heading for human drug trials

John Mackey and Luc Berthaiume

A new cancer treatment developed at the University of Alberta is heading for human trials in three Canadian cities by the end of 2020, including in Edmonton. John Mackey and Luc Berthiaume are interviewed. Story also runs on Global News, CTV News and CBC News.

National Post: Why making anti-viral drugs is so hard - and how COVID-19 could be great for the field

As the scientific community receives funding to pivot massively toward the novel coronavirus, the antiviral field in general could take a giant leap forward, a rare silver lining to the pandemic cloud, experts say. Joanne Lemieux, a professor of biochemistry at the U of A, is interviewed.

New York Times: Can I get coronavirus from riding an elevator?

Infectious-disease researcher Ilan Schwartz noted that even when a person with COVID-19 is living in close quarters with other members of the household, the infection rate has been estimated at about 10 to 20 per cent. That's much less contagious than an airborne disease such as measles, which would have an infection rate of 75 to 90 per cent, he said.


Times of India: What is remdesivir? All you need to know about experimental coronavirus drug

Story mentions research by Matthias Götte that showed remdesivir is a potent inhibitor for polymerases in the coronaviruses that cause SARS and MERS, which suggests it might also be effective against the virus that causes COVID-19. Related coverage appears in Indian Express. Götte also comments in a news feature in the prominent scientific journal PNAS.

NewsTalk 770: Could blood plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 help treat hospitalized patients?

Susan Nahirniak, a professor of laboratory medicine and pathology at the U of A, comments on new research aimed at recruiting blood donors to find out whether their COVID-19 antibodies might be useful in developing treatments against the disease.

National Tribune (Australia): Impacts of research shutdown to be felt long after pandemic ends, scientists warn

Story mentions a study co-authored by Stephanie Yanow, an assistant adjunct professor of medical microbiology and immunology at the U of A, in which the authors argue that lives are at risk due to a shutdown of research on other diseases that don't share the same obvious urgency as COVID-19 but still take a huge toll on human life.

Jamaica Gleaner: Strong Interest In Salt Filters

Story about a medical professional in Jamaica developing a salt filter for masks mentions U of A research focused on using salt in hard surfaces to kill the coronavirus.

Englemed Health News: Blood enzyme may explain male virus susceptibility

In a study suggesting an enzyme called ACE2 may be why men are more susceptible to COVID-19 than women, U of A professor of medicine Gavin Oudit and a colleague from Harvard wrote that two observational studies of protein inhibitor use in hospitalized COVID-19 patients have shown no augmented risk to COVID-19 patients and even suggested possible benefits.

USA News Hub: Why UFC is the first sport to return during the coronavirus

Story references 2015 research by sport and exercise medicine researcher Shelby Karpman that showed boxers are far more susceptible to major harm from concussions and other head trauma than mixed martial arts fighters, who are instead at greater risk of more minor injuries.

Pharma Business International: Tonix and Alberta Uni to develop novel horsepox-based vaccines for COVID-19

The U of A and Tonix Pharmaceuticals, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, will collaborate to develop three novel horsepox-based vaccines for prevention of COVID-19. Lead researcher David Evans said it is currently unknown what type of vaccine and which antigens from SARS-CoV-2 will provide effective protection from COVID-19. Orthopoxviruses such as horsepox induce strong innate and adaptive immunity and long-lasting T-cell immunity.

Forbes: Researchers explore low doses of radiation to treat severe coronavirus cases

U of A oncology researcher Marc MacKenzie and a colleague from Calgary reviewed an approach to treating COVID-19 that sees physicians administer small doses of ionizing radiation to reduce inflammation caused by the disease.

Global News: COVID-19 patient isolation could lead to mental health struggles: Alberta ICU doctor

Peter Brindley, a critical care physician at the University of Alberta Hospital's intensive care unit, points to a 2016 U of A study finding that, compared with non-isolated patients, isolated patients receive less attention from health-care workers.

Global News Edmonton: COVID-19 wastewater research in Edmonton

A pilot program designed by a U of A professor will soon get underway to see whether wastewater can be used to detect and track COVID-19. Steve Hrudey, a professor emeritus in the Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathology, is quoted.

CTV News: Alberta researchers part of rush to learn vitamin D's role in COVID-19 prevention

Researchers in Edmonton are among several groups around the world looking into whether there's any benefit of boosting vitamin D levels in a patient's blood as a means of protecting them against COVID-19. Aldo J. Montano-Loza is preparing to launch a study of at least 70 Albertans who contracted COVID-19 to see whether their vitamin D levels put them at risk of severe infection and whether boosting these levels will help their condition.

CBC News: Drug strategies to fight COVID-19 move beyond guesses

Mathias Götte, professor and chair of the U of A's Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, comments on his research into remedesvir as a possible treatment for COVID-19. Infectious-disease specialist Ilan Schwartz, who is not involved in clinical trials of potential antivirals to fight COVID-19, also comments.

CBC News: Alberta pauses trial of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 treatment

Alberta is following in the steps of the World Health Organization by pausing its trial studying the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19. The trial, which was announced in mid-April, is a collaboration between the U of C, U of A, Alberta Health Services and the provincial government.

CBC News: Antivirals best defence against a disease that may be here to stay, says COVID-19 researcher

Lorne Tyrrell discusses the research being done at the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology and says Canadians should understand that good antiviral treatments could "change the course" of the disease, reducing its severity.


New York Times: Why days 5 to 10 are so important when you have coronavirus

Infectious-disease specialist Ilan Schwartz notes that while most patients recover from COVID-19 in about a week, a significant minority of patients enter "a very nasty second wave" of illness. "After the initial symptoms, things plateau and maybe even improve a little bit, and then there is a secondary worsening."

Edmonton Journal: Opinion: Women's heart health shouldn't take back seat to virus

In an op-ed, assistant adjunct professor of medicine Colleen Norris notes a 50 to 60 per cent decrease in the number of patients with heart concerns visiting hospitals and clinics in Canada, and says the decline is especially concerning because numbers of cardiac issues among women are expected to rise amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maclean's: 'Can I really get sick from the coronavirus twice?' (and 10 other pandemic questions)

Infectious-disease specialist Ilan Schwartz answers questions about COVID-19 and addresses how our understanding of the coronavirus has changed over time as we learn more about it.

CBC Radio: COVID-19 may be affecting the brain

Neurologist Jennifer McCombe discusses what researchers in Canada are learning from colleagues around the world about possible neurological symptoms of COVID-19.

630 CHED: 'One whammy after another' for Fort McMurray residents

Professor of psychiatry Peter Silverstone comments on how people can support each other through trying times.

Global News: Remdesivir has emerged as a possible COVID-19 treatment-what happens next?

Matthias Götte, a professor of medical microbiology and immunology at the U of A, comments on early results from a U.S. clinical trial that suggest the antiviral drug remdesivir may shorten recovery time for COVID-19 patients. Similar stories appeared in the Edmonton Journal, CItyNews, CBC Edmonton AM and numerous other Postmedia outlets.

CTV News: Could remdesivir be a game-changer for COVID patients? Experts say wait for data

Infectious-disease expert Ameeta Singh comments that early results from a U.S. clinical trial of the antiviral drug remdesivir show that it can shorten the duration of COVID-19 infection, but it is unclear from the information provided whether the drug reduces the severity of the illness.

630 CHED: How to plan ahead in case you need to evacuate

Louis Francescutti, a professor of emergency medicine at the U of A, offers advice on what people should do to be prepared in the event of an evacuation notice due to flood or fire.

Global News: Residents returning after Fort McMurray flooding must be cautious amid COVID-19 pandemic

"To have the flood on top of what's happening with COVID-19 is horrifying in some ways," said infectious-disease expert Ameeta Singh. "I'm very hopeful that any further spread of the virus can be mitigated."

CBC: The Current: Evolving picture of COVID-19 doesn't mean virus itself is changing, says doctor

Neurologist Jennifer McCombe said it's understandable that the evolving information on COVID-19 could be "unnerving" for the public, but noted Canada is doing well at flattening the curve, and that it had the advantage of being hit with cases later than other countries.

CBC News: Could schools become the next long-term care homes? Your COVID-19 questions answered

Q and A with experts about COVID-19 includes comment from infectious-disease expert Lynora Saxinger. Saxinger also comments in a CBC story about reopening of salons.

Winnipeg Free Press: Answering some of the frequently asked questions about COVID-19

Q and A with experts about COVID-19 includes comment from infectious-disease expert Ameeta Singh.

CBC News: 'Our safety is becoming secondary': How funeral homes are grappling with mounting COVID-19 deaths

Many funeral directors feel as though the role of their staff in helping manage the outbreak is overlooked. Infectious-disease expert Ilan Schwartz is interviewed.

Global News Edmonton: Fort McMurray flood victims could be more prone to depression

Fort McMurray flood victims may be more at risk of depression, said U of A professor of psychiatry Peter Silverstone. Related coverage also appears on Global News Edmonton.

The Daily Briefing: What's behind Covid-19's mysterious 'second-week crash'?

Doctors are reporting that some patients who develop severe cases of Covid-19 take a turn for the worse around the same time in the disease's progression. Infectious-disease specialist Ilan Schwartz is interviewed.

Global News Edmonton: COVID-19 immunity not necessarily so

Just because someone had COVID-19 doesn't necessarily mean they become immune to it. Michael Houghton, director of the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute, is interviewed.

Global News: You're less likely to catch coronavirus outdoors-so why are parks closed?

Experts are urging local governments to lift many restrictions on park use, as more and more evidence suggests that people rarely catch the novel coronavirus while outdoors. Infectious-disease specialist Stan Houston is interviewed.

The Globe and Mail: What to know about masks as Canada slowly emerges from lockdown

Infectious-disease expert Lynora Saxinger gives expert comment on the use of masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Global News: A 2nd wave of COVID-19? Alberta scientists warn of asymptomatic spread as province reopens

As COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta and across Canada are beginning to be lifted in stages, infectious-disease experts say a likely second wave of the virus will only be limited if people continue to social distance. Michael Houghton, director of the U of A's Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute, is interviewed.

CBC News Calgary: Alberta dentists struggle to get enough PPE to resume procedures

Some Alberta dentists say they still can't find enough personal protective equipment as the province begins gradually allowing them to resume their practices. Ronna Richardson-Lozano with the U of A's School of Dentistry is interviewed.

Canadian Press (Via CTV News): Pandemic highlights existing barriers for those with communication disabilities

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted long-standing barriers preventing Canadians with communication disabilities from fully accessing the health-care system, according to advocates calling for governments to address the issue. Heidi Janz, an assistant adjunct professor with the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre, is interviewed. Coverage appears in several media outlets nationwide.

CBC News: The National: COVID-19: Should people stay home if they're suffering from seasonal allergies?

Infectious-disease expert Lynora Saxinger answers questions about the COVID-19 pandemic, including whether people suffering from seasonal allergies should stay home.

RTE News: Amid Covid pandemic, world marks 40 years since eradication of smallpox

As scientists scramble for a way to overcome COVID-19, the world is also marking a pertinent anniversary: humanity's only true triumph over an infectious disease with its eradication of smallpox four decades ago. U of A virologist David Evans is quoted in the story.

Canadian Press via Victoria Times Colonist: COVID-19 testing, contact tracing key to fending off second wave, experts say

Infectious-disease specialist Ameeta Singh suggested Alberta's centralized health and laboratory systems-versus patchwork regional authorities elsewhere-could be one reason for the province's high testing rate.

The Star: Ontario is right to open access to the outdoors for all, not just cottage owners

Infectious-disease specialist Stan Houston said COVID-19 has had its greatest impact overwhelmingly in locations such as long-term care homes, meatpacking plants and cruise ships. "It's all about enclosed spaces, not outdoor recreation areas. The risk there is at a minimum. That's the science of it."

Global News: What is 'silent hypoxia'? The coronavirus symptom patients don't know they have

Shortness of breath often accompanies hypoxia as an indicator that the body's oxygen levels have dropped, said pulmonary medicine specialist Ron Damant. He said if it's severe enough, silent hypoxia can lead to death.

National Observer: 'Alberta didn't contain it': COVID-19 outbreak at oilsands camp has spread across the country

The close quarters at oilsands camps make it easy for COVID-19 to spread, said infectious-disease researcher Ameeta Singh. "I think what's a little bit unique to the oilsands situation is that people are moving in and out," she said. "Every time there's movement like that, people are at risk of acquiring the infection and therefore potentially passing it on."

Maclean's: The fragile confidence of coronavirus survivors

Infectious-disease specialist Ilan Schwartz said there have been no accounts of symptoms returning after recovery, and these tests are likely detecting old genetic material of the virus. "These tests are imperfect," he said.

Global News Radio Toronto: Are precautions for reopening hospitality industry enough?

Infectious-disease specialist Stan Houston said we have run some services in a modified way without the coronavirus taking off, which suggests that as long as we are cautious, we can start exploring other areas of activity we need to get back to. "It's an experiment."

CBC Radio One: Reopening is particularly tricky for restaurants

Infectious-disease specialist Lynora Saxinger said restaurants pose a unique challenge because they most closely resemble a household-type exposure, which we know carries extra risk.

The Mirror (UK): Coronavirus has proven women are the stronger sex

U of A clinical assistant professor of pediatrics Kyle Sue said estrogen tends to be protective, in that it increases the work the immune system is able to do to fight infection, whereas testosterone seems to do the opposite.

Global News: Hair salons and barbershops are reopening-but your visit won't be the same

Infectious-disease expert Stan Houston said there might be a higher potential of COVID-19 transmission in salons given that "closer personal contact seems unavoidable by the nature of the work."

CBC News: Should people with seasonal allergies stay home from work? Your COVID-19 questions answered

Infectious-disease expert Lynora Saxinger said a potential difference between COVID-19 symptoms and seasonal allergies is itchy eyes. However, if those symptoms don't respond to antihistamine medication, it might be a sign of something more serious.

Red Deer Advocate: Obese patients at higher risk of COVID-19 complications

Arya Sharma, U of A professor of medicine and scientific director of Obesity Canada, reports that obesity was a significant risk factor in the SARS and H1N1 epidemics.

CBC News: Can I let cleaners into my house? Your COVID-19 questions answered

"If you can avoid sharing airspace while someone is in your house, and everyone avoids going out when they're ill, it should be reasonable," said infectious-disease specialist Lynora Saxinger.

CBC News: Does COVID-19 cause long-term damage to your body? Your COVID-19 questions answered

Infectious-disease specialist Lynora Saxinger said ventilators themselves can damage the lungs. She said lung-function decline, loss of muscle mass and even post-traumatic stress disorder are possible.

Global News: Kenney has 'no intention' of making COVID-19 vaccine mandatory if one becomes available

Infectious-disease specialist Lynora Saxinger said that normally she would expect there would be no need to mandate a vaccine because "many people are waiting eagerly for it, to reduce their own risk and protect others, and help us regain a more normal-feeling society."

Global News: Yeast infection, UTI or something else? How to spot the difference

Many people will assume any kind of vaginal problem is a yeast infection when in reality, it could be a host of other things, said U of A assistant professor of family medicine Sanja Kostov, who specializes in reproductive and sexual health.

CBC News Network: Should face masks be compulsory?

U of A professor of psychiatry Peter Silverstone comments that without some level of enforcement, large numbers of Albertans will not wear face masks.

CBC News: Why can I go grocery shopping but not see my friends? Your COVID-19 questions answered

Infectious-disease specialist Lynora Saxinger answers the questions, "Can flatulence carry COVID-19?" and, "Can I get coronavirus through an open cut?"

Vice: In the anti-vaxxer era, will countries make a coronavirus vaccine mandatory?

"Making vaccines mandatory is the last tool in the toolkit of public health," said infectious-disease specialist Lynora Saxinger. How elevator etiquette in apartments has changed in the age of coronavirus

"Wherever possible, people should choose the stairs over an elevator," said infectious-disease specialist Ilan Schwartz. "If an elevator is necessary, everyone should be wearing a face covering."


National Post (via Canadian Press): Present and future Alberta doctors criticize provincial health minister for new fees, billing changes

Story mentions that 127 medical students at the U of A and University of Calgary wrote a public letter to Alberta's health minister saying many of them are looking to leave the province after graduation due to uncertainty in their field. The story appears in media outlets across the country.

Grandin Media: Medical school students volunteer to help track spread of coronavirus

Third-year U of A medical student Zosia Prus-Czarnecka comments on why she chose to be one of 120 medical students in Edmonton volunteering to help trace the spread of COVID-19. The students are calling people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in an effort to trace others who may have been exposed to the virus.

CityNews Edmonton: U of A medical students help out AHS

U of A medical student Paul Barber is interviewed about how he and fellow students are helping out with surge planning for hospitals.

Radio-Canada: COVID-19 : incursion dans la tête de ceux qui cherchent un vaccin

Researchers at the U of A who are associated with Entos Pharmaceuticals describe what life is like in the lab as they work on a candidate vaccine for COVID-19.

660 Radio: Glen Sather Clinic steps up

COVID-19 makes it more difficult to get treatment for other ailments, so medical professionals at the U of A's Glen Sather Sports Medicine Clinic have stepped up to help.

Edmonton Journal: Alberta Dental Foundation donates 20,000 oral health kits for Fort McMurray flood evacuees

The Alberta Dental Foundation has partnered with the U of A School of Dentistry, Colgate and GUM to provide oral health kits to flood-ravaged Fort McMurray and Alberta food banks.

Global News Edmonton: Deena Hinshaw shares her thoughts

News report quotes alumna and public health officer Deena Hinshaw about her home life from an article in Folio, the U of A's news magazine.

Calgary Sun: Mental health workers band together to help workers, parents, kids cope with COVID-19

U of A professor of psychiatry Peter Silverstone organized an online mental health service where professionals in Edmonton offer free counselling service for those experiencing anxiety, depression and other conditions during the pandemic.

Malaysia Tatler: COVID-19: Li Ka-shing, Jack Ma and others in Asia doing their part during this health crisis

Story mentions Li Ka-shing's donation to the U of A in 2010 that led to the establishment of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology, which is currently researching the best ways to test, treat and vaccinate against COVID-19.

Global News: They're front-line workers and moms. Here's what Mother's Day means to them

One of the moms featured for the story is infectious-disease specialist Ameeta Singh, who says the pandemic has changed both her life at home and her job as a doctor.