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Infectious Diseases

July 11, 2023

Erol Fikrig, MD, section chief

Vincent Quagliarello, MD, clinical chief

Ad Hoc Treatment Team Develops COVID Guidelines

In March 2020, Maricar Malinis, MD, and colleagues were called to an emergency meeting. COVID-19 was on the horizon, and no one knew what to expect. The anxiety was palpable. The date itself was inauspicious: Friday the 13th. Faculty from infectious diseases and other disciplines, as well as nurses and pharmacists, came together in a series of meetings to formulate a treatment strategy for COVID. From these meetings, a multidisciplinary team took shape—a collaboration between the Yale School of Medicine and Yale New Haven Health. The team recognized the need to provide consistent treatment recommendations for COVID inpatients, as having a consistent pattern for COVID therapy would be critical in managing a rapidly rising number of cases. The team used data to create an algorithm that had been updated 25 times as of September 2022. As a result of these efforts, the Yale New Haven Hospital COVID-19 mortality rate between March 2020 and September 2022 was half the national average, with no differences in mortality between ethnicities and races.

Honors and Awards

Barbara Kazmierczak, MD, PhD, was named vice chair for basic research for the Department of Internal Medicine in 2022. According to Kazmierczak, the future of medicine depends on how effectively departments of medicine support discovery and the creation of knowledge. Focusing on clinical research and its implementation also has tremendous effects on patients’ well-being.

Sandra A. Springer, MD, received the Avant-Garde Award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse for research on HIV prevention and treatment among individuals who use drugs. Springer’s research plan is inspired by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S., which aims to scale up key HIV prevention and treatment strategies to reduce new HIV infections by 90 percent by 2030. According to Springer, individuals often go without care due to poverty, housing instability, involvement with the justice system, racial stigmatization, and lack of transportation. Her plan will highlight substance use disorder, especially opioid use disorder. A mobile health clinic and pharmacy targeting people at risk of HIV infection and at high risk of overdosing are central to her plan.

Yale Team Develops Vaccine for Deadly Leptospirosis Bacteria

A Yale research team has developed a vaccine that prevents leptospirosis while nearly eliminating the deadly bacterium from the body. The team, led by Joseph Vinetz, MD, and Reetika Chaurasia, PhD, a postdoctoral associate, used the genome project to identify the Leptospira-secreted protein exotoxin as the leading candidate for the cause of death in leptospirosis. The research team then showed that vaccination with the toxin eliminated the disease, and an antibody neutralized the toxins in preclinical models. The development of a vaccine for leptospirosis would have major implications for global public health, said Vinetz, the paper’s senior author, with the greatest benefit occurring in developing countries with a higher disease burden that is presently unmet.

Fellowship Program

After being named fellowship director in October 2021, Marwan Azar, MD, and his team made several changes to address the stress trainees underwent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Azar was named fellowship director after his predecessor, Manisha Juthani, MD, took a leave of absence to serve as the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Health. Among the changes Azar implemented was an “emergency week off” after the Omicron surge. With second-year fellows agreeing to take on additional shifts, Azar was also able to add additional days off to break up 12-day work schedules.

Submitted by Julie Parry on July 10, 2023