Welcome all to my show, Meet Minerva the Microbiologist. My name is Minerva A. Garcia. I am currently the Associate Director of Microbiology at Jacobi Medical Center New York City health and hospitals corporation. I am your microbiologist.
Now again microbiology with the microbes welcomes you in and so does poetry, with creative lines
In today’s show I’ll be talking about the following topics:
RSV abstract by Minerva was sent in and accepted at the ASM American Society of Microbiology and Clinical Virology Symposium in 2016.
Eve Quinn interviews Minerva A. Garcia
Poems Tomorrow by Minerva.
Facts about the delta variant
So, let’s get started.
RSV abstract by Minerva:
When I stress in my abstract that respiratory syncytial virus known as RSV which is a pediatric virus usually in the winter months will jump to adult population via a host that will be opportunistic such as immuno-compromised, immuno- suppressed, diabetic, lupus, elderly population, and patients at risk with debilitating health issues.
RSV will jump from pediatric population to the adult population. Today we are seeing that the corona virus known as Covid-19 has jumped from animals to humans and this is known as the term zoonotic.
When we saw this pediatric virus jump to adults we knew that also other viruses could do this as well. For example Bordetella pertussis, which is a pediatric virus, this can also jump to adult populations and the immunocompromised population. Today we are witnessing RSV cases usually not seen during the warm months. We know that RSV is a virus that strikes in the cold. This is a seasonal virus.
So now Eve Quinn will interview me:
Hi Minerva how are you?
Hi how are you?
Good, thanks for having me on the show!
Sure, welcome to the show.
So today you have been talking about your abstract on RSV. What year did you write this abstract? 2014?
I did write it in 2014, but it was accepted in various articles and for a presentation at a symposium. It was accepted at the ASM Virology Symposium. I was very happy about that. It was a great triumph.
Wow that is quite the accomplishment. So, why did you choose to research the respiratory syncytial virus at this time?
I am very interested in doing research. I learn stuff through research and I think that’s how we can move science forward in order to help patients and the world. Imagine if we didn’t have research today. We wouldn’t have the COVID-19 vaccine, Which is helping so many people all over the world. So, right now I can say that because I have such a strong interest in research, giving away my patient confidentiality, I know that I am a diabetic patient who became very concerned with the respiratory symptom that I experienced In one of the cases that I had during the winter seasons. I did a respiratory panel for other viruses and especially the flu is all negative. So, I became concerned. My hypothesis was that it could possibly be RSV.
RSV is only seen in pediatric populations. So, I hypothesized that because I was an immunocompromised adult being diabetic that most likely I did have RSV.
Didn’t test at that time but it just happened that I got a case of an elderly patient which was a male. To my surprise, he was positive for RSV. And I proved my hypothesis was conclusive with my theory. So, this was really an excellent way for me to prove that. So, I hypothesize that this virus in the pediatric population will jump to other populations. Also patients with immunocompromise an immunosuppressed immune systems will become opportunists.
Are we seeing more RSV cases during the summer?
Yes. I am saying that. RSV is purposely presented in the winter season because it likes the cold. This summer we are seeing it, because we didn’t have RSV in the winter, We now have many pediatric cases during the summer which is unusual for this virus. This virus that usually occurs during the winter is now behaving during the summer as a winter virus. It’s almost like understanding that we have a virus that has jumped from animal to human. We are seeing a virus that is usually seasonal in the winter time is now jumping to the summer.
To me this is very interesting. Now, I did hypothesize that would happen but I did not want to put that in my paper because most people would say that could never happen.
However, we see the reality that this is happening and the strength of the virus that is able to mutate and adapt in order to survive and strive.
So, we are kind of comparing this RSV virus adapting to certain conditions to how the COVID-19 virus is reacting right now with its new variants?
Yes you can say that because this is how viruses act. They adapt, they mutate, and make more of themselves through replication. RNA.
A virus can be very lethal because they can reproduce quickly. Think about COVID. We understand the concept of cloning so you can really think of how the virus replicates and it replicates very rapidly.
Knowing what you know now about RSV after doing your abstract, when you first heard about this new virus emerging from Wuhan China in 2019 .. what were your first thoughts?
The first thing that I thought in my mind was well, guess what? It’s going to come to the United States and then spread globally. This is due to transportation. We all travel, We take plans etc so it would only be a matter of time before it hits the USA. My goal was to prepare my laboratory staff ahead of time. But I was ahead of my goal because I had already implemented policy and procedure that my staff were a equipped to handle any crisis, especially COVID-19. And I knew that COVID-19 was airborne. I was way ahead of the game when no one else was stressing that COVID-19 was airborne.
Family friends and coworkers were required to follow these policies and procedures knowing that COVID-19 was an airborne virus. When we were handling the influenza testing in our lab we were doing so under the biological safety hood 3 that we normally use to handle testing for the tuberculosis patients. And none of my staff were at risk.
Did you have to buy any new instrumentation for the lab to test for this new virus?
For COVID-19 also known as SARS, our laboratory, like most other laboratories at the time, were not equipped with the testing capabilities to detect this virus. I had to implement new instrumentation and validate these methods. New testing methods had to be implemented and developed. We were very fortunate that a couple of manufacturers such as BioRad, Roche, and Cepheid were critical in Instrumentation that was able to identify this virus. This was very important in the diagnostic process and procedures and how we test patients.
The laboratory technologists were critical in the testing and reporting and of the diagnosis of COVID-19 so that clinicians could treat their patients.
During this time you are implementing a lot of new procedures. It seems like a very stressful time for you. How were you feeling? Were you scared?
One of my mottos is when you are prepared you are not scared. This has always been my method of preparation when I approach any pathogens. and one thing we do know, is that COVID-19 is a lethal pathogen. Looking back at the way that I handled I think that we handled it very well. I implemented all the proper procedures and protocols that I have learned as a certified clinical laboratory professional.
We use personal protection equipment such as gloves, lab coats, goggles, masks, safety shields, and the biological safety hood 3. These protocols were important to ensure the safety of my staff and their families at home.
I also needed to ensure that all the test results were being processed as timely as possible. My goal was to get the test results out within an hour and a half from them arriving to the laboratory. This turn around time was incredible. We tested for COVID-19 through nucleic acid amplification known as PCR.
This was very important in handling this crisis.
When you were given the opportunity to take the COVID-19 vaccine did you take it?
Yes I did. I was the first of my staff to get the vaccine. I was very happy about that because I was able to meet our CEO Christopher Mastromano. I applaud all the employees who took the COVID-19 vaccine without being afraid. They were exemplary for other staff. Today I am happy to say that I am a vax champ for New York City Health and Hospital Corporation.
I encouraged my staff. They followed my example and they all now have the vaccine. Also, my family and friends realized how important it was to get vaccinated. I was an example and look at me I’m fine. I encourage everybody to get the word out. And get vaccinated.
Please get the vaccine because it will save your life. This way you will be able to protect your loved ones. If you have the vaccine your chances of being hospitalized are drastically lower. You will make it because this vaccine that we have today is effective against the variant strain regardless of if you are vaccinated or not there is always a chance that you may come down with COVID.
But the chances are it will not be as lethal as if you were not vaccinated. Everyone that’s vaccinated, it’s so important that you know and continue with the idea to encourage others to get vaccinated.
The only way to go is to get vaccinated to protect everyone especially the elderly, the immunosuppressed, the immunocompromised, anyone who was accepted organs. Also, any children under 12 years old who have not been vaccinated. These are the populations that are at risk.
They are calling this new variant the delta variant. Where did this variant originate?
The delta variant originated from India and one of the problems that we are seeing In India is that their lacking so much medicine. They do not have the necessary supplies needed to keep up with the demand from their population. A lot of the people in India live in close vicinity of one another. They do not even have a chance if they are not vaccinated.
We are hoping that through global communication and global awareness of how deadly the delta variant is that we can come together as a community and be able to assist countries that don’t have vaccines and their governments however we can whether it’s financially or through supplies.
If you are an American citizen or not we are all citizens of the world we are all in it together and we all have to take an approach, a positive approach, and an accurate approach to curve down the spread of the COVID-19 virus because this is a pandemic right now.
What is this about this delta variant that sets it apart from the original COVID-19 virus?
When we started right now with this virus it’s so deadly because it’s so lethal because it spreads so rapidly and one of the reasons why it spread so rapidly is because the virus is contagious and has an ability to produce higher viral loads in patients. The potential is really disastrous and deadly. One reason that I’m stressing the importance of this virus is because it can mutate and chances are it will mutate to deadly variance that will become more infectious and cause more illness to other people and patients. This becomes so critical in stopping the spread so what we need to do is get vaccinated
For example in the laboratory you get a Covid test and it’s positive. How do you know which variant it is?
That’s a very good question. I just saw this line on Twitter and was able to respond. So every laboratory in the city, if your doctor sends your specimen to the laboratory they will be able to detect whether you are positive or negative for COVID-19. When you are positive for COVID-19 is the responsibility of the laboratory to send your specimen that is positive to the pandemic response laboratory. We send specimen to the department of mental health and hygiene to detect which variant this is through genome sequencing. This is important to know and for your doctor to get the feedback so they will know which variant you have and they can track which populations are being affected. Right now, the delta virus is circulating. Most of the cases in the United States right now about 89% that we are dealing with are the delta variant. Hospitalization has been increasing enormously right now in Florida it has become the center of the delta virus.
I encourage everybody in Florida to roll up your sleeves and get vaccinated.
Some of the protocols in NYC requiring mask wearing in a public place or proof of vaccination. Do you agree with this?
I’ve always agreed that we shouldn’t remove our mask. I personally did not remove my mask. My family and friends did not remove their masks. Why? Because there is a potential of this virus mutating and becoming virulent and we are seeing that now with the delta variant. So, I was ahead of my game. I always try to be ten steps ahead. The mask right now is critical control the spread of the delta variant regardless of if you are vaccinated. Now, anyone who is still not vaccinated you must wear your mask 100%. Please do not refuse to wear your mask. Please get vaccinated. I cannot stress that enough. It’s the only way to go.
Thank you Minerva
Facts about the Delta variant:
132 countries have been affected
80 % of all US cases is the delta variant
All of the new hospitalized infections are the delta variant
The previous strain was alpha. Delta we know is more contagious because it spreads so rapidly.
It can produce higher viral loads in patients. We all believe that it has the potential to be more deadly
in winter season, I can imagine, we are most likely going to have a strong delta variant, and/or other variant strain.
This variant will be very problematic during the winter season because the virus loves the cold. The vaccine is your best protection against the delta variant right now. I stress everyone to get vaccinated. It will make the infection less. The virus will keep mutating as long as it is spreading in the population so it’s very important to control the spread through vaccination. It’s the only way to develop immunity. I cannot stress that enough. You will develop immunity with the vaccine. It will protect you. This is very important.
Tomorrow shall come
Today is the day to live
As yesterday is gone
As my mind wants to cry
I will not take it for this ride
But preserve it with a smile with God
I shall not crash0-
For God is in my side
When all else may divide
He’ll sustain me
All intact inside
I shall swim the deepest water
He’s my substance-
I shall rest on Him
As He feeds me
I see all His precious deeds
As the sun revolves
I shall rise each morning without looking back
He’ll be my guide
As I see-
He’ll witness it with me
As He takes my hands
I shall walk with Him
No longer alone
As He whispereth onto to me
As I awake-
He lets me see lovely things
I may not wait long
For He given me lots
Tomorrow, I shall be with Him
But the winds
Will carry them afar
As I shall manage
One at a time …
This is Minerva A. Garcia. Your microbiologist.
Opinion disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed in this podcast are solely my own and my guests’ and not of any institution or corporation. Thank you!