Global Emerging Diseases Institute in Tampa looks at coronavirus treatment, prevention

Back in March, Tampa General Hospital epidemiologist, Dr. Seetha Lakshmi, joined FOX 13 for a webcast to discuss the coronavirus, that was quickly spreading across the U.S.

"It's been a rough road," said Dr. Lakshmi at the time.

Eight months later, she said doctors are getting a better understanding of this pandemic. 

"There was a little bit of uncertainty and now we have a lot more data and a little more certainty around the science. It's a long way to go," she said.

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She is now helming the effort for research, trials and patient care as medical director of the new Global Emerging Diseases Institute.

"Which is a collaboration between Tampa General Hospital, USF and our private practice physicians that practice infectious disease," explained John Couris, the President and CEO of Tampa General.

"It's a culmination of what we have learned, what we can offer for the community in the best practice world class care way," said Dr. Lakshmi.

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Dr. Kami Kim, an infectious disease specialist at Tampa General says they are trying to implement all of the clinical research with the clinical care.

"So we're completely cutting edge," Dr. Kim said. "If there's a new treatment that looks promising, we're at the head of the queue as far as offering it to patients."

They are looking at one of the experimental drugs given to President Donald Trump during his bout with COVID-19.

"We are now part of the Regeneron studies that shot to fame because President Trump received those," said Dr. Kim.

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"I think we'll continue to have better therapies I'd like to think. Regeneron, because of what they're seeing in the research, will move from the research phase it's in to an emergency use phase where people, hospitals can access that a little bit easier," said Couris.

They're also examining the so called long haulers. 

"Where they recover from COVID ,but then they have other issues that are a residual effect of COVID. We have infrastructure to take care of those patients and that’s now under this umbrella of the Global Emerging Diseases Institute," said Couris. 

And there's hope for the release of a vaccine.

"I'm pretty hopeful that something will be out there by the end of the year or next year. There are at least 3 or 4 very sound approaches that are being tested right now in clinical studies and are backed up by outstanding science," said Dr. Kim. 

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"We're going to have a vaccine. The question is how effective is it? How safe is it? And if it's effective and safe, are people going to still take it? Because there's a lot of misinformation around it," said Dr. Lakshmi.

For now, it's about helping the community phase back into some pre-COVID life through TPRO.

"TPRO stands for TGH Prevention Response Outreach. It essentially is a service that's available to the community, the businesses. It's also an avenue for people to feel a lot more comfortable returning back to work, being able to ask questions and even in terms of disinfecting how best you can do it," said Dr. Lakshmi.

Because now it's about managing the virus. 

"Really coming to terms and grappling with the reality that it's still with us and we're learning to live with it. I think that's a huge change in how we view it," said Dr. Lakshmi.

For more information about TPRO, click here.