Bringing the power of research to bear

Wichita State University researchers from multiple disciplines are hard at work addressing the COVID-19 outbreak. Here's an ongoing look at COVID-19 research efforts underway.


Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Antiviral Drug Research

Bill Groutas, WSU Foundation Distinguished Professor of Chemistry (email • faculty page)

Groutas, along with K-State researchers Yungeong Kim and Kyeong-Ok Chang and Stanley Perlman at the University of Iowa, have been working to develop antiviral drugs to treat Middle East Respiratory Syndrome caused by MERS-CoV. That work extends to other human viruses that are similar to COVID-19.

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Wichita State University chemist working to develop antiviral drugs in fight against COVID-19

Up until recently, COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) may have been a relatively new phenomena to the general public, but Wichita State University medical chemist Bill Groutas, two virologists from Kansas State University, and a physician/virologist from the University of Iowa have been working on a cure for coronaviruses for more than three years.

“It’s a big problem, with no vaccines available,” said Groutas. “The coronavirus could be around for a long time."

Groutas, along with K-State researchers Yungeong Kim and Kyeong-Ok Chang and Stanley Perlman at the University of Iowa, have been working to develop antiviral drugs to treat Middle East Respiratory Syndrome caused by MERS-CoV. That work extends to other human viruses that are similar to COVID-19.

He says there are currently no antiviral drugs available for coronaviruses, which include SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV2. The team has identified compounds that show efficacy against MERS-CoV in mice and are also potent inhibitors of a SARS-CoV2 enzyme that is essential for virus replication.

If their compound works, Groutas said, it can be used in combination with other compounds – Gilead remdesivir polymerase inhibitors – to reduce the impact of the coronavirus.

According to Groutas, some researchers in Israel believe there could be a vaccine for COVID-19 within three months, although in the U.S. it is estimated that it will take a year or more before a vaccine is realistic.

Willam Groutas
Wichita State University medical chemist Bill Groutas is working with peers on a possible treatment for COVID-19.

Time-series Map of the spread of COVID-19 in Kansas

Zelalem Demissie, Assistant Professor, Geology (email • faculty page)

Zelalem Demissie and his geology students have created a dashboard of data visualizations that chart the spread of COVID-19 in the state of Kansas. Unique among maps of this type, Dimissie's dashboard includes a time-series map animation. The dashboard provides information about the spread but also allows any WSU-related department to add charts of different kinds. Zelalem’s students are working on a full story map that would accompany the dashboard with video and other resources.

View Demissie's Dashboard  View the student COVID-19 Story Map


COVID-19 Resources for Spanish speakers

Rachel Showstack, Associate Professor, Modern and Cassical Literature and Languages (email • faculty page)

Julia Nkanata, WSU Foundation

Showstack and Nkanata are working on an application to the Kansas Health Foundation, which involves developing resources for Spanish speakers related to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Protein and Lipid study

Alexandre Shvartsburg, Professor, Chemistry (email)

Shvartsburg is developing mass spectrometer techniques to characterize proteins and lipids that are broadly useful for the microbiology and virology studies relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Antiviral compound research

Dennis Burns, Professor, Chemistry (email)

Burns is involved with developing compounds that may have broad antiviral properties, possibly including treatment of COVID-19.


History of Pandemics

George Dehner, Associate Professor, History (email)

Dehner is folding the events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic into his ongoing study of the history of influenza and pandemics.

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Wichita State historian compares COVID-19 with past pandemics

April 30, 2020

George Dehner might take exception to those who say the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented.

“This pattern of the appearance of a novel infection that spreads pandemics is as old as a human story. Once we began to settle in the towns and be connected to larger groups of populations that can sustain this sort of rapid infection element like a virus or some other thing, you have pandemics,” said Dehner, associate professor of history at Wichita State University.

Nor would Dehner say that the pandemic was entirely unexpected.

“COVID-19 itself was not predicted, but something like COVID-19 has been predicted for 25 years. COVID-19 is not a surprise to people who have been doing this sort of modeling” he said. “You can't pick which one it will be, but the fact that some sort of animal disease leapt into the human population and spread globally would not come as a surprise to anybody who does that sort of research.”

Dehner, a world environmental historian who examines the intersection of humans and disease in the modern era, presented “Influenza pandemics since Russian Flu: Do they provide insight to COVID-19?” on April 22 as part of a Fairmont College of Liberal Arts and Sciences series, Perspectives on the Pandemic.

See the Perspectives on the Pandemic

During his presentation, Dehner focused on the Russian flu of 1889, Spanish flu of 1918, Asian flu of 1957, Hong Kong flu in 1968, and the H1N1 virus of 2009 as compared to today’s COVID-19. He spoke about the role of transportation and centralized federal responses.

Lessons from Spanish flu

“Spanish flu is probably the best one to compare because COVID-19 and Spanish flu share some similar attributes.” However, he cautions that “all of this discussion with COVID-19 has to be taken with a grain of salt because a lot of the information is still coming in.”

During the discussion, Dehner shows graphs of the social distancing responses employed by particular cities during the 1918 pandemic.

“Spanish flu has been used as an example for examining what we call social distancing. You have an example of a successful early case in St. Louis,” Dehner said. “You can also see in St.  Louis that while they flatten the curve on the front half, they remove those restrictions, and then we had a second peak. Here’s when social distancing worked, and here's what happened when you removed it.”

Though the terms social distancing, social bubbles and the 6-foot rule have become ubiquitous in our daily conversations, there’s historical precedence to their efficacy. 

“What we're doing at the moment in terms of social distancing — because it's really the tool we have at hand that's most effective — that's certainly based upon the experience of events before. We also have lessons that exist in the past, particularly Spanish flu, when social distancing ends. There’s an enormous amount of pressure for ending social distancing because of the economic impacts, but that's also comparable to Spanish flu that was the same issue,” Dehner said.

Knowledge is power

But there are also key differences between COVID-19 and the Spanish flu of 1918.

“Number one, they’re completely different organisms, so we have to be cautious about saying ‘Let's plug in COVID-19 for Spanish flu,’ because they are completely different organisms,” Dehner said. “We have differences today where we know a lot more about COVID-19 than they ever knew about Spanish flu in 1918. With that is the possibility of creating either medical intervention treatments that will be effective and ultimately a vaccine. These are things that exist today that are different that didn't exist for Spanish flu. In Spanish flu, they didn't really understand that it was a virus. They were looking for a bacterial cause.”

Historical perspective on the pandemic

Dehner said that the mortality rate for COVID-19 is settling in at about 1%, which means that 99% of people recover from it. However, because it’s so infectious, Dehner said, there are a lot of people who are going to contract it.

“This is something that in a couple of years, we will probably have a protective vaccine, and we’ll be much better able to handle it,” he said. “I don't have the same fear that I would have or something that has a 2.5% mortality rate like Spanish flu does or when you start talking about SARS, which had somewhere around 17%, or you look at MERS that had about a 30% rate. You look at avian becoming human transmissible, you were looking at 40 to 50% mortality based upon a very small number of cases because you're only seeing people in the hospital. Those numbers I found much more frightening, but I don't want to a soft petal COVID-19 because 1% is still a very high mortality rate.”

As a historian, Dehner sees almost an instructional manual on how to deal with pandemic crises.

“We have a record of dealing with pandemics. Understanding how we have responded in the past, both at the local level in terms of the university and the town but also at the federal level, one thing I think future historians are going to look at very minutely is why our particular response during this time has taken the path it has,” he said. “It hasn't followed what had been templates before. As a historian, I would like to argue that understanding the impact of pandemics in the past is something that we can usefully consider as we examine what to do today.”

 


Method of predicting COVID-19 cases in limited-testing areas

Adam Jaeger, Assistant Professor, Math and Statistics (email)

Jaeger is working with models that incorporate both spatial and temporal correlation simultaneously and rely less on distributional assumptions. The goal is to reduce error caused by incorrect specification of generating process and allow for known information from surrounding counties and previous numbers of reported cases to better predict future outcomes and better estimate numbers for area where testing is extremely limited. 


Autoclaving methods to sterilize PPE

Mark Schneegurt, Professor, Biological Sciences (email • faculty page)

National Institute for Aviation Research (through the Ad Astra Coalition)

This Ad Astra Coalition initiative is being led by the National Institute for Aviation Research and Biological Sciences Professor Mark Schneegurt. Schneegurt has been providing updates to the NIAR team about potential new sterilization methods for Personal Protective Equipment.

 

Institute for Interdisciplinary Innovation

Rural Kansas health metrics mobile app

Jeremy Patterson, Dean, Institute for Interdisciplinary Innovation | (email • faculty page)

Masters of Innovation Design students 

WSU’s Masters of Innovation Design students have been working on a COVID-19 mobile app this semester in collaboration with and funded by HealthICT. This app allows clinics to collect health metrics on people that live in rural Kansas. The primary focus is on hypertension due to its link to COVID-19.


Mobile app for onsite medical assessment of suspected COVID-19 patients

Jeremy Patterson, Dean, Institute for Interdisciplinary Innovation  (email • faculty page)

Heidi Bell, associate dean and assistant professor, human performance studies (email • faculty page)

Bell and Patterson are supported by SWAY Medical to test viability of deploying mobile technology, conducting a physical assessment, collecting data and interpretation. A lab at Harvard will view the data and interpretation.


Nanofiber PPE facemasks

Ramazan Asmatulu, Professor, Mechanical Engineering  (email • faculty page)

Jeremy Patterson, Dean, Institute for Interdisciplinary Innovation  (email • faculty page)

Asmatulu and Patterson are building on an existing WSU research project to create nanofiber inserts for gloves in the EVA spacesuits for NASA. They are hoping to convert their designs into for facemasks as PPE that are more effective than N95 and that can also be disinfected.


College of Applied Studies

Graduate students experience study

Donna Sayman, School of Education (email • faculty page)

Heidi Cornell, School of Education (email • faculty page)

Sayman and Cornell are conducting a qualitative exploratory study to examine the experiences of their graduate students (who are also full-time special education teachers) during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are exploring unique challenges, victories, and general experiences during this unique time our history. 


Mobile app for onsite medical assessment of suspected COVID-19 patients

Jeremy Patterson, Dean, Institute for Interdisciplinary Innovation  (email • faculty page)

Heidi Bell, associate dean and assistant professor, human performance studies (email • faculty page)

Bell and Patterson are supported by SWAY Medical to test viability of deploying mobile technology, conducting a physical assessment, collecting data and interpretation. A lab at Harvard will view the data and interpretation.

 

College of Health Professions

The effect of stay-at-home orders on Kansas COVID-19 numbers

Nicole Rogers, Chair and Associate Professor, Public Health Sciences (email  |  faculty page

Rogers, KUMC’S Robert Badgett and a team of senior medical students are looking at Kansas counties that were slow to implement stay-at-home measures and comparing with COVID-19 spread data. The study will also include ethnicity and cell phone mobility data. The team hopes to apply this deviant modeling method to look at a range of public health issues. 


Wichita State University student COVID-19 survey

Amy Drassen Ham, Clinical Professor,  Public Health Sciences (email • faculty page

Nikki Keene Woods, Associate Professor, Public Health Sciences (email • faculty page

Assessment of Information Sources, Knowledge and Beliefs about COVID-19 among Wichita State University Students – student survey on COVID-19 to support current WSU approaches to COVID-19 communications and help shape how and where the University continues making information available for students. Survey included questions on health literacy, media use, and COVID-19 knowledge and beliefs. 


Women's Health Network COVID-19 survey

Nikki Keene Woods, Associate Professor, Public Health Sciences (email • faculty page

Wichita State University will be hosting a Women’s Health Network of Kansas virtual panel discussion on women’s mental health and COVID-19 and issuing a survey to assess COVID-19 related health disparities, and health care access and needs of network members. The research is funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

 

College of Engineering

Nanofiber PPE facemasks

Ramazan Asmatulu, Professor, Mechanical Engineering  (email • faculty page)

Jeremy Patterson, Dean, Institute for Interdisciplinary Innovation  (email • faculty page)

Asmatulu and Patterson are building on an existing WSU research project to create nanofiber inserts for gloves in the EVA spacesuits for NASA. They are hoping to convert their designs into for facemasks as PPE that are more effective than N95 and that can also be disinfected.


Temporary stethoscopes

Joel White, Research Engineer Senior, Composites and Structures, National Institute for Aviation Research (email)

Rob Gerlach, Director of Intellectual Property & Tech Transfer, WSU Ventures (email)

Airbus (through the Ad Astra Coalition)

Ad Astra Coalition partners Wichita State and Airbus are working to create a temporary, disposable stethoscope made out of various 3D printed components. Roughly 65 percent of the total 2,000 stethoscopes will be produced at the College of Engineering’s Project Innovation Hub in John Bardo Center with design assistance from the National Institute for Aviation Research.


Autoclaving methods to sterilize PPE

Mark Schneegurt, Professor, Biological Sciences (email • faculty page)

National Institute for Aviation Research (through the Ad Astra Coalition)

This Ad Astra Coalition initiative is being led by the National Institute for Aviation Research and Biological Sciences Professor Mark Schneegurt. Schneegurt has been providing updates to the NIAR team about potential new sterilization methods for Personal Protective Equipment.


Prediction of COVID-19 Epidemics

Dukka KC, Associate Professor and Director for Data Analytics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (email • faculty page);

Dukka KC is applying deep learning techniques to model and predict the progression of COVID-19 pandemic a

 

Center for Economic Development and Business Research

COVID-19 Business Impact Visualizations

Jeremy Hill, Director, CEDBR (email • website )

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The manual services industries have been the hardest-hit from the COVID-19 crisis. To highlight these vulnerable industries, the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University has developed interactive visualizations. These interactive graphics show the size and level of concentration of the ten hardest hit service sectors by state. Users will be able to generate their own custom graphics to highlight and understand the vulnerability by state or industry.

COVID-19 Vulnerability by State

The state selection visualization shows the concentration of vulnerable workers by the ten hardest hit manual service sectors. The graphics identify the number of jobs and total wages, which provides an in-depth analysis the level of vulnerability within the state.


COVID-19 Vulnerability by Industry

The industry selection visualization filters the information by the ten most vulnerable manual industries. The information for each industry is broken down by the concentration of employment and other details for all states. This allows for an overview of how each of these ten vulnerable industries are concentrated across the nation.


COVID-19 State Comparison

The state comparison visualization provides a broader view of how each of the ten vulnerable industries are concentrated across the nation. The multi state view can be customized to any combination of states for further analysis.