Experts available for comment as flu season approaches
The following University of Florida experts are available for comment as the 2016 flu season approaches.
Nicole Iovine, an epidemiologist for UF Health Shands Hospital and an assistant professor of medicine in the College of Medicine, division of infectious diseases and global medicine, works with a team of UF researchers who discovered why an influenza virus was making young people admitted to UF Health Shands Hospital so sick: It contained a mutation that allowed it to infect the patients’ lower respiratory tracts. Knowing about this mutation is allowing Iovine and her team to better develop vaccines to combat various forms of flu.
Phone: (352) 294-5481
John Lednicky is a virologist who completed genetic analyses of the H3N2 influenza virus Dr. Nicole Iovine noticed was disproportionally affecting young people. His analyses revealed that the Gainesville H3N2 strain belonged to a different genetic line than the H3N2 virus strain of the US influenza vaccines. An influenza virus specialist, Lednicky's studies include influenza D virus, a recently discovered virus of cattle and swine that his student Sarah White has now determined is affecting cattle workers in Florida. He also studies pathogenesis – the development of a disease – and how disease-agents spread through the air.
Phone: (352) 273-9204
Parker Small is a scientist, educator and physician with five decades of experience studying influenza. His areas of focus include fundamental work on host defense, pathogenesis, vaccine development and vaccine administration. In 2006, Small co-founded the Control Flu program in an effort to reduce the number of flu cases in Alachua County. The program focuses on children, administering vaccinations through a nasal spray known as the FluMist. His studies have shown that antibodies found in respiratory mucus can protect against flu even when the virus has changed. Currently, Small is researching how to improve immunization rates in flu vaccine-hesitant populations such as high school and college students.
Phone: (352) 359-3163
Glenn Morris, director of UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, has more than 30 years of experience in public health and pathogen-related fields. He recently teamed up with Dr. John Lednicky to analyze the H1N1 and H3N2 forms of the flu virus; both viruses affected Gainesville area in 2013 and 2014, respectively. They found that the viruses that brought most patients to UF Health Shands Hospital bore significant differences from the virus strains contained in each year’s flu shot. “Genetic sequencing of flu viruses is important,” Morris says. “The more in-depth we look at flu strains, the more we learn about how it changes from season to season.”
Phone: (352) 273-7526