Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in the news

Long COVID still a risk, even for vaccinated people

By Jeanna D. Smiley  Long COVID can cause persistent COVID-19 symptoms including loss of smell, fatigue, mood changes, and brain fog in addition to disorders of the heart, kidneys, and lungs. These symptoms emerge or continue at least one month after a SARS-CoV-2 infection. It is estimated that 7.7 to 23 million Americans may have developed long COVID, a condition also called post-acute COVID or chronic COVID. While researchers have observed that vaccines have been effective in fending off some of the worst long COVID symptoms, they also found that mild breakthrough COVID-19 infections can trigger lingering, severe symptoms of long COVID even in vaccinated people. Dr. Joseph A. Roche, an associate professor in health sciences at Wayne State University agreed that vaccines do not replace other risk reduction methods for COVID-19. He pointed to a paper he authored, which urges “continued nonpharmacological risk-reduction measures…to complement vaccination efforts.” In his research, Dr. Roche cited mathematical models which predicted that such measures should stay in place for a year, even after the population reaches ideal vaccination levels.  
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How Biden’s new ‘test to treat’ COVID plan works – and why it might not be enough

This week, the Biden administration is launching a test to treat COVID program. High-risk patients with COVID symptoms will be able to walk into hundreds of pharmacies for a free COVID test and walk out with a free course of pills. The program, according to some experts, is limited in scope. COVID pills are new, and they come with prescribing challenges. Pfizer’s Paxlovid can interfere with many commonly prescribed drugs and cause health problems. Merck’s molnupiravir comes with precautions due to reproductive risks. Independent pharmacies say they can help. “Pharmacists are medication experts. We have been managing drug interactions and dose adjustments routinely for decades. We could handle this,” said Susan Davis, a pharmacy professor at Wayne State University’s Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.  
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Opinion: We're infectious disease specialists at WSU. What COVID-19 has taught us so far

As co-directors of the Wayne State University Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, Marcus Zervos, M.D., Teena Chopra, M.D., M.P.H., Paul Kilgore, M.D., M.P.H., and Matthew Seeger, Ph.D, share their perspectives on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. The experts discuss parallels between previous pandemics, exacerbated health disparities, a lack of response and resource coordination, the dangers of misinformation, and ways the public health system can better prepare for future pandemics. Together, the co-directors assert that if we learn from this pandemic, our post-COVID-19 world will be more resilient, health disparities will be reduced, and our public health system will become stronger.  
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Why catching COVID-19 to ‘get it over with’ is a terrible idea

By Nancy Schimelpfening  Many people are tired and worn down from having to be constantly vigilant about the coronavirus, and there is a growing sentiment that COVID-19 is inevitable. Some are seeking to expose themselves to help “get it over with,” despite experts cautioning against it. Intentionally exposing yourself to the coronavirus with the hopes of developing COVID-19 can come with severe complications, including death. Doing so puts yourself and others at risk, and puts more of a burden on the healthcare system. Additionally, you may get sicker than you anticipate, as was the case with Czech singer Hana Horka, intentionally exposed herself to the virus and recently died. “While it can be argued that singer Hana Horka likely had fatal COVID complications because she was not vaccinated, the fact remains that COVID is not trivial,” said Joseph A. Roche, associate professor in the physical therapy program at Wayne State University. “Even though vaccination is proven to be a bulwark against complications and deaths, unfortunately, there are still rare breakthrough cases where the acute and chronic symptoms of COVID are worrisome.”  
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Stressed out at college? Here are five essential reads on how to take better care of your mental health

Nearly 70% of college students say they are experiencing emotional distress or anxiety related to the pandemic. That’s according to a January 2022 survey that also found nearly 9 out of every 10 college students believe U.S. colleges and universities are facing a mental health crisis. The Conversation outlines tips for college students to take better care of their mental health. Christine Kivlen, assistant professor of occupational therapy at Wayne State University, recommends students seek out therapy dogs, citing research that has shown spending just 10 minutes with a therapy dog can reduce college students’ stress levels. “Among other benefits, therapy dogs can help students achieve a stronger sense of belonging and better deal with being homesick and lonely, while also lessening their anxiety and stress,” Kivlen said.  
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Death rituals in Black communities have been altered or forgone in the pandemic

By Ayesha Rascoe  Mortician Stephen R. Kemp, who is an alum of the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and a leader in the Detroit funeral industry, speaks with NPR host Ayesha Rascoe about how the pandemic is affecting the role of funeral homes in Black communities. COVID-19’s death toll in the United States is over 837,000, and it keeps climbing, resulting in a lot of business for funeral homes over the last two years. Funeral homes aren’t necessarily making more money because many Americans went without costly burials, opting for less expensive cremations, which translates to a change in death rituals, especially in Black communities. “…I do see cremation growth because financially, it makes a whole lot of sense. We really – because of the pandemic, we really weren’t prepared with insurances and with the proper amount of money to do that. And cemeteries have increased their prices really, really disproportionately to the inflation rate…you’re beginning to see a lot more funerals here at the funeral home versus traditional places like a church…we have them in parks and tents, in people’s homes, in the backyards. And what traditionally has been the funeral has evolved into a celebration of life. I tell people, get pictures together. Put them on a flash drive. Play the person’s favorite music…” 
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Everything you need to know about newly available COVID-19 vaccines for kids

Dr. Paul Kilgore, associate professor and director of research in the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at Wayne State University, joins Stephen Henderson on Detroit Today in a conversation about the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine for school-age children. "The availability of the vaccine for children is really, really good news. It's definitely a game-changer...Parents have been patient and now is the time that they can actually go in to get their kids vaccinated...the reactions we see include things like soreness after the injection, systemic signs like headache, malaise, and joint and muscle aches - that resolve relatively quickly. Kids are very resilient. In fact, we see very, very few kids needing to follow up at a pediatrician as a result of any adverse events..." said Dr. Kilgore. "I always weigh the risks and benefits of anything, including vaccinations. One of the things we can tell parents is that overall, over the last several months, we've had a relatively conservative rollout of the vaccines. We started with the older adults, working our way down to younger adults and teenagers. And through that experience, we've been able to learn that the mRNA vaccines and the J&J vaccine have been safe for adults, and now we have a lot of additional real-world experience with hundreds of thousands of older children who have been vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine. What this is all telling us is that we haven't seen any unusual signals that would make us worry as we start to vaccinate children ages 5 to 11. The risks of not getting vaccinated are substantial." 

Fast food burgers, fries, and pizza may leave you full of phthalates

By Huanjia Zhang   As Americans devour a fast-food burger in the car or gobble up a chicken burrito in front of the TV, some may bite into phthalates, according to a new study in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology. This is the first study to directly measure the amount of phthalates present in common fast foods in the U.S. and adds to mounting evidence linking phthalate exposure to fast food consumption. Phthalates are a group of synthetic chemicals widely used to make plastic more flexible, and are ubiquitous in a host of plastic products, ranging from toys to personal care products. Phthalates have been shown in human and animal studies to disrupt the endocrine system. Although the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use of eight phthalates in children’s toys and child-care products in 2017, the plastic industry is able to replace the prohibited phthalates with slightly tweaked plasticizer chemicals. “A chemical isn’t a problem until it’s proven dangerous,” said Douglas Ruden, a toxicologist who studies phthalates at Wayne State University, who noted the ongoing tug-of-war between scientists trying to assess the health and safety of potentially harmful new plasticizers and their evolving successors. 
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Long COVID now has a formal definition from the WHO: What to know 

Long COVID now has a formal definition from the WHO: What to know  On Oct. 6, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the first official definition of what constitutes long COVID. The medical community has been aware that while most people recover from COVID-19 within a matter of weeks, some will experience lingering symptoms for four or more weeks after developing COVID-19.  Until now, there has not been a formal definition for this condition. Referring to it as “post COVID-19 condition,” the document says that long COVID “occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, usually 3 months from the onset of COVID-19, with symptoms that last for at least 2 months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis.” The definition further states that common symptoms may include fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, and several others that can impact daily functioning. Joseph A. Roche, BPT, Dip. Rehab. PT, PhD, associate professor in the Physical Therapy Program at Wayne State University and member of the American Physiological Society who has performed research into the effects of long COVID, said the case had been made that long COVID may resemble a condition known as “myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS),” which can affect some individuals after other viral illnesses.  “What makes post COVID-19 condition more concerning than ME/CFS,” said Roche, “is that there is not just physical and mental fatigue, but also persistent and recurrent problems that affect the lungs, heart, blood vessels, and other organs and tissues.”  
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Metro Detroit parents prep for COVID-19 vaccine approval in kids 5-11; here's when it could happen

Metro Detroit parents prep for COVID-19 vaccine approval in kids 5-11; here's when it could happen  Pfizer and BioNTech requested emergency use authorization of its vaccine for kids 5-11. Currently, the shot is approved for kids 12 and up. In Michigan, more than 36% of kids ages 12-15 are fully vaccinated, with 40% receiving at least one dose. Cyerra Byse, a mom in metro Detroit, said she and her kids always mask up, and now, they could be one step closer to another layer of protection with the COVID-19 vaccine. "I can't control where everybody else goes I can just protect my household," Byse said. Dr. Paul Kilgore, the director of research in the department of pharmacy at Wayne State University said so far, the results "look very good." In terms of timing, an FDA panel will meet to review the data on Oct. 26. For context, in adults, it was about three weeks in between the application for emergency use authorization until shots when into arms. The dosage will also be different. It's only about a third of what adults receive. "It's going to be a lower antigen content. In other words, the adult version of the vaccine is 30 micrograms, the pediatric dosage for the 5 to 12 years-olds is going to be about 10 micrograms," Kilgore said. 

How therapy dogs can help student with stress on college campuses

By Christine Kivlen  At a private college in the Northeast, a first-year student said it was the highlight of her day whenever she would lie on the floor of her adviser's office and cuddle with a therapy dog, a Leonberger named Stella. At a large public university in the Midwest, a graduate student spoke of how a therapy dog there provided some much-needed relief. "What stands out for me is how comforting it felt to pet the therapy dog, especially when I started to miss my family and my own dog at home," the student, who is in a demanding health professional program, told me for my study of therapy dog programs for graduate students. The student spent about 35 minutes a week with three other students who all got to spend time with the therapy dog, petting her and giving her treats. Another student in the same program said spending time with a therapy dog helped her prepare for high-stakes tests. "It was always really nice to spend time with the therapy dog before big exams," the student said. "I felt like it gave me time to relax before the stressful test." 
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Therapy dogs help students cope with the stress of college life

Christine Kivlen, assistant professor (clinical) of occupational therapy in the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, wrote an article for The Conversation detailing the benefits of therapy dog programs for college students. As the demand for mental health counseling continues to increase, more colleges are using therapy animals as a way to improve student mental health. Such programs, more formally known as canine-assisted interventions – can improve student well-being while helping students achieve a stronger sense of belonging, cope with being homesick and lonely, and lessening their anxiety and stress. College students who spent even just ten minutes petting a dog or cat saw significantly decreased cortisol levels, which are known to indicate stress.
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Pregnancy tests, VR goggles, pipes, 100-plus pounds of marijuana among purchases included in Michigan research grants

By Gus Burns  Pipes, virtual reality goggles, biometric tracking devices, iPads, auto insurance, lab vans, pregnancy tests and several dozen salaries are included in the budgets. Michigan voters in 2018 supported a marijuana legalization ballot proposal that included $40 million in funding over two years for U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved clinical trials “researching the efficacy of marihuana in treating the medical conditions of United States armed services veterans and preventing veteran suicide.” Marijuana advocates hope findings will scientifically justify to the FDA and other federal entities that marijuana has valuable medical use. Marijuana is currently labeled a schedule I drug by the DEA, which by definition deems it to have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” That is not the perception shared by states, including Michigan, that have legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational use. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs’ Marijuana Regulatory Agency awarded Wayne State University (WSU) $7 million and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) $13 million to conduct their clinical trials that will take five and three years each, respectively. 
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Wayne State establishes infectious disease research center to aid in future pandemics

Wayne State University announced Monday the opening of a new center focused on the study of infectious diseases and strategies to combat future pandemics. The Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases will enhance training and research in the field of public health. The center is not a physical building but a collection of doctors, researchers and professors at the Detroit-based university. "The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered local, state and national mindsets toward infectious disease threats, including pandemic diseases," Dr. Mark Schweitzer, dean of Wayne State's School of Medicine and vice president of health affairs for the university, said in a news release. "The pandemic revealed deep and broad gaps in our clinical and public health infrastructure that responds to pandemics. "In line with the mission of WSU to support urban communities at risk for health disparities, the center will have the expertise and capacity to support and collaborate with neighborhoods, hospitals and public health agencies to deliver state-of-the-art diagnostics, treatments and preventive strategies for the benefit of all residents in Detroit and other communities." Work done at the center will focus on vaccine development, clinical vaccine evaluational, deployment strategies for the vaccine in underserved populations and research on pandemic mitigation efforts. Directors of the new center include: Dr. Teena Chopra, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases; Dr. Paul Kilgore, associate professor of pharmacy practice; Dr. Marcus Zervos, head of infectious diseases division for Henry Ford Health System, professor of medicine and assistant dean of WSU Global Affairs. Key faculty include Dr. Phillip Levy, professor of emergency medicine and assistant vice president of translational science and clinical research at WSU, and Matthew Seeger, professor of communication.
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Here’s what you need to know about latest COVID-19 surge, delta variant

There is a new surge of COVID-19 cases being driven by the delta variant. This strain of the virus is much more contagious than the original strain that emerged in March 2020. Michigan has seen a more than 180% increase in cases over two weeks. “Even if you do get the infection, as a breakthrough case, the likelihood that you’re going to end up in the hospital or in the intensive care unit or … die, is very, very low,” says Dr. Paul Kilgore, associate professor and director of research at Wayne State University’s Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. This spike in caseloads has caused many universities — including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University — to require staff, students and faculty to be vaccinated before the start of the school year. Just over 55% of people 16 years or older are fully vaccinated in Michigan.
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Major NIH award to Wayne State to offer state-of-the-art proteomic research capabilities

Wayne State University has been awarded a $1.29 million high instrumentation grant from the National Institutes of Health to purchase a state-of-the-art mass spectrometer for identification and quantitation of proteins in biomedical research samples. According to Paul Stemmer, the principal investigator of the project and professor of pharmaceutical sciences in Wayne State's Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and in the Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the system will bring new capabilities to the Proteomics Core Facility that will create research directions currently not possible at Wayne State. "The new ThermoFisher Scientific Orbitrap Eclipse mass spectrometer will aid researchers at Wayne State by giving them new knowledge about changes in protein abundance as well as an improved understanding of the status in signaling pathways underlying the development and progression of disease," said Stemmer. In addition to advancing science and technology at Wayne State University and in the surrounding vicinity, the instrument will aid in training students and postdocs, provide an opportunity for underserved K-12 students in Detroit to engage in hands-on educational activities, and enable product development at both startups and established local companies. "This award from the NIH will be a major asset to our faculty and others outside of the university who have a need for higher resolution, greater sensitivity and higher mass accuracy with proteomic mass spectrometry," said Stephen M. Lanier, vice president for research at Wayne State. "We are grateful for NIH's support of this important piece of equipment, which will transform research at our university and beyond."
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COVID-19 virus is getting much better at moving from one person to another

On Tuesday, with few exceptions, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer removed all remaining capacity restrictions and mask mandates related to the COVID-19 pandemic. While Michigan has over 61% of people ages 16 and older vaccinated and declining case rates, some people still worry whether Michigan is reopening prematurely. Meanwhile, the delta variant is becoming more and more dominant, leaving many to wonder if they should be concerned about it and whether the vaccines will protect against these new strains. The delta variant has appeared in Michigan and as of Monday, there have been 25 reported cases. Dr. Paul Kilgore is an associate professor and director of research at Wayne State University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Kilgore says he’s happy that Michigan officials are lifting restrictions to transition to post-pandemic life because of the stress alleviation it provides to so many state residents. Yet, he adds he is still worried about the coming fall.  
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Next generation COVID treatments: What experts look to change, improve

Pharmaceutical companies are already hard at work to make the next generation of vaccines for COVID-19 easier to administer, less invasive in some cases, and more effective against a wider range of illnesses. Pfizer and Moderna are already conducting trials to evaluate booster vaccines to protect against new variants, the results of which are expected later this year. “They have to be as good or better than the current vaccines that we have," said Dr. Paul Kilgore, an associate professor and the director of research in the Department of Pharmacy Practice within the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at Wayne State University. Kilgore, who is also a senior investigator with Henry Ford Health System's Global Health Initiative, told Action News hitting that gold standard takes time. “The first approach is to develop an mRNA vaccine very similar in design to the original vaccine that Pfizer and Moderna have, but what they will have is a new sequence in the mRNA that corresponds to the new spike protein in the variant," he said. 
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CDC mask guidance is premature, Wayne State medical researcher says

If you’re fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask in most situations inside or outside. That’s the new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which surprised regular folks and public health experts alike with the announcement last Thursday. Michigan followed suit, lifting the mask requirement for fully vaccinated people and said unvaccinated people do not need to wear one outdoors. The CDC notes people should continue to follow regulations from local governments and private entities. While some public health experts say the CDC is making the right decision, others are concerned that relaxing guidance is premature at this stage of the pandemic. Dr. Paul Kilgore is an associate professor and director of research at Wayne State University’s Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. He says the new guidelines are premature. Kilgore cites Michigan’s current vaccination numbers. He says about 50% of the population has had at least one dose of a vaccine, and 42% are fully vaccinated. “When you look around the community or an environment — shopping, restaurant, wherever you are — you can’t assume that everyone is vaccinated,” says Kilgore. He says he has not changed his personal behaviors despite the new CDC guidelines. “Personally, I’m wearing a mask still inside the gym or if I go out shopping or to a restaurant, a grocery store, that kind of thing,” he says. Kilgore also recommends people who are either immunocompromised or around people who are immunocompromised should continue wearing masks, even if vaccinated.