Vanderbilt Medical
Center To Test
Bird Flu Vaccine
From Patricia Doyle, PhD
"Dr. Kathryn Edwards, one of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers testing an avian flu vaccine on older people, says developing a vaccine is "our best defense" against the disease."
The University is ONE of FIVE SITES for latest study.
As I stated previously, we do not have the finished pandemic strain yet, and I am skpetical about the effectivness of a vaccine based on a 2004 Vietnamese strain.
I am also worried about vaccines that will be developed using attenuated live virus. Nasal spray vaccines if developed will be a risk of spreading of virus via shedding virus in nasal moucous secretions.
Patricia Doyle
Vanderbilt Medical Center To Test Bird Flu Vaccine
By Claudia Pinto Staff Writer
Vanderbilt University Medical Center is one of five hospitals nationwide that are testing the effectiveness of an avian flu vaccine, which would be the only real defense against a potential pandemic that experts say could kill as many as 150 million people.
The avian flu is a contagious disease among birds. But dozens of people in Southeast Asian countries have become sick and died from it, typically after tending infected poultry. The fear is that the virus will mutate, learning to spread from person to person, and grow quickly out of control unless a vaccine becomes available.
"There is evidence, in at least one situation, where it has been passed from one person to another," said Dr. Kathryn Edwards, a Vanderbilt professor of pediatric infectious diseases. "There are changes occurring every day in the virus. The concern some of us have is that the regular flu will mix with the avian flu, allowing it to pass very effectively from human to human.
"Developing an effective vaccine is our best defense.''
Vanderbilt will test the vaccine in adults 65 and older. It previously has been studied in 450 healthy people ages 18-64 in research funded by the National Institutes of Health, a federal agency that funds medical research.
That study, which ended about a month ago, indicates that the vaccine is safe and appears to be effective. None of the participants had serious side effects.
The avian flu vaccine works like most vaccines, said Dr. Tom Talbot, a Vanderbilt assistant professor of medicine. It contains a dead part of the virus, which tricks the body into believing it's being attacked by an active virus. The body then produces antibodies to fight the germs.
The antibodies stay in the body and are able to kill the real virus if a person later becomes infected.
"The shots won't make people sick," Talbot said. "It's not a live virus."
The Vanderbilt study will focus on fine-tuning vaccine dosage to find out what amount produces the best outcome in the elderly.
Participants will receive three shots over six months. They'll get either high doses of the dead virus, lower doses or a placebo vaccine, with none of the dead virus. To determine which doses produce the best outcomes, researchers will draw blood and look at antibody response.
Vanderbilt is seeking 80 healthy people ages 65 and older to participate. They will begin screening volunteers for the study today and hope to begin administering the vaccine next week.
"We really need help from our community to solve this problem," Edwards said.
There have been 62 deaths from the 121 cases of avian flu in Southeast Asian countries since 2003, according to the World Health Organization.
Countries that have experienced outbreaks of the avian flu, such as China, Japan and South Korea, have had to kill hundreds of millions of chickens and other birds to try to halt the illness.
While Talbot believes the avian flu is a real threat, he said there's no reason to panic.
"Right now, it's only in the bird population. It's not even in the bird population on this side of the world. The message has not gotten out to keep perspective."
While other avian flu vaccines are being created, this is the only one being tested. The Vanderbilt researchers said the Food and Drug Administration could approve it within a year and even earlier if a pandemic does occur.
But Talbot said there's no way to know when it could strike.
"We use history as a guide. There have been three pandemics in the last 100 years. The last one was over 35 years ago. We know we are due for one.
"We don't know if it will hit in six months or six years, but you want to have it available for when it does hit.''
Vanderbilt's research is being funded by a $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. In addition to Vanderbilt, UCLA Medical Center, University of Cincinnati Medical Center, University of Maryland Medical Center and University of Rochester Medical Center are studying the bird flu vaccine. To volunteer for the Vanderbilt study, call 322-8740.
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message board at:
Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa
Go with God and in Good Health



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