Quality of Life in Those with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Their Caregivers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Team member: Brad Ferguson, PhD
  • Project summary: Our team is exploring changes in quality of life — such as sleep problems, gastrointestinal symptoms, stress and anxiety — experienced by those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as well as caretakers of those with ASD because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Information Needs of Health Care Providers

  • Team members: Mirna Becevic, PhD; Karen Edison, MD; Lincoln Sheets, MD
  • Project summary: Show-Me ECHO offers weekly one-hour sessions for primary care and other health care providers in Missouri to learn about the COVID-19 pandemic: testing, diagnosis, treatment, management, etc. Participants complete surveys on specific community needs and what they will implement in their practice. We will analyze all of the collected data to inform experts on what didactic topics are needed for future COVID-19 ECHOs. We would like to use this knowledge to improve the capacity of participating providers to care for their patients with COVID-19 and improve outcomes.

Geospatial Drivers and Outcomes of COVID-19 ECHO

  • Team members: Mirna Becevic, PhD; Lincoln Sheets, MD
  • Project summary: Look for associations between COVID-19 ECHO attendance and COVID cases or tests by county in Missouri. Hypothesis 1: There were increases in COVID-19 ECHO attendance from counties that had spikes in number of cases. Hypothesis 2: There were increases in the number of COVID-19 tests by county after ECHO attendance by health care providers in that county.

Therapeutic Targeting of Host Enzymes to Control COVID-19

  • Team members: Bumsuk Hahm, PhD; Paul Anderson, PhD
  • Project summary: SARS-CoV-2 isolate, a causative agent of COVID-19, was recently secured for research at the MU Laboratory for Infectious Disease Research (LIDR). In collaboration with LIDR, we will establish the basic protocols for SARS-CoV-2 analysis. Host S1P-metabolizing enzymes regulate bioactive lipid mediators that have promising therapeutic potential. Importantly, our findings from respiratory virus research on influenza and measles indicate that those enzymes control replication of the respiratory viruses. Therefore, we will determine if S1P-metabolizing enzymes regulate SARS-CoV-2 propagation. The research could improve our knowledge about coronavirus-host interactions and lay a foundation for developing host factor-targeting therapeutics to effectively eradicate coronaviruses.

Development of Pseudoparticles to Test Inhibitors of SARS-COV2

  • Team member: Marc Johnson, PhD
  • Project summary: We generated and optimized the spike glycoprotein from SARS-COV2 and have used it to generate pseudoparticles with the viral core of a laboratory virus and the spike protein of SARS-COV2. We use these particles in an assay to test inhibitors of SARS-COV2 entry such as synthetic peptides, small molecules or neutralizing antibodies. We are also developing assays for performing positive selection with SARS-COV2 spike to see how it adapts to inhibitors.

COVID Surveillance of Wastewater for the State of Missouri

  • Team members: Marc Johnson, PhD; Chun-ho Lin, PhD
  • Project Summary: In collaboration with the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Health and Senior Services, we are initiating a project to monitor SARS-COV2 RNA levels in wastewater treatment facilities across the state as a means of early detection of local viral outbreaks.

Pandemic Surveillance in Nursing Homes Using Wireless Sensor Networks

Structure of Membrane-Bound Fusion Peptide of SARS-CoV-2 Required for Infection

  • Team member: Steven Van Doren, PhD
  • Project summary: Infection by many viruses requires them to fuse with a host cell, a process mastered by the virus that causes COVID-19. A key step in viral infection is to insert a fusion peptide into the cell surface. Many patients who recovered from the 2003 SARS outbreak made antibodies against this part of the virus. The fusion peptide of SARS-coronavirus-2 is very similar and should be targeted by vaccines and monoclonal antibodies. To understand invasion of cells by SARS-coronavirus-2, the Van Doren lab will measure and simulate protein-membrane interactions at nearly atomic resolution. Insights will be relevant to vaccine development.


  • Team members: Syed Hasan Naqvi, MD; Dima Dandachi, MD; Abu Mosa PhD
  • Project summary: Participating in Phase 3 double-blind, placebo-controlled RCT Healthcare Worker Exposure Response and Outcomes of Hydroxychloroquine Trial (HERO-HCQ Trial). The trial will test if hydroxychloroquine is effective in preventing coronavirus infections in health care workers. Participating sites within PCORnet®, the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network, will use the registry to recruit 15,000 health care workers to participate. The registry also will be used for other clinical trials and research studies that address unmet needs for healthcare workers.

Application of Dornase Alfa for Treatment of Severe COVID-19

  • Team members: Adam Schrum, PhD; Alexander Earhart; Zachary Holliday, MD; Hunter Hofmann, MD; Armin Krvavac, MD; Mohammed Alnijoumi, MD
  • Project summary: Cause of death from severe COVID-19 is often acute respiratory distress, which may be caused in part by excessive DNA deposited by white blood cells called neutrophils. Their sticky DNA deposits are called NETs (neutrophil extracellular traps), which can help trap infectious microbes. But too many NETs can have a "glue" effect, which together with mucus can clog airways. Dornase alfa is an existing drug that degrades NETs, and thus may help to soften mucus and aid in its clearance to improve respiration of severe COVID-19 patients. The idea is that if such patients could pull through their severe stage, their immune system might have more time to fight the virus and promote recovery.

Democratizing Genome Sequence Analysis for COVID-19 Using CloudLab

  • Team members: Praveen Rao, PhD; Deepthi Rao, MD, MS; Peter Tonellato, PhD; Wesley Warren, PhD; Eduardo Simoes, MD, MSc, MPH
  • Project summary: The goal of this project is to democratize genome sequence (GS) analysis using CloudLab, an NSF-funded experimental testbed. Deep insights from genomic information of individuals can be extracted by researchers at scale. By empowering researchers with publicly available software tools and computing infrastructure for variant analysis at scale, this project aims to advance our understanding of how individuals respond to COVID-19 infection by uncovering deep relationships in genomic variants of individuals.