University of Rochester
Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

Researchers test new flu vaccine

Scientists are launching a research study to check the effectiveness of a new type of flu vaccine that is made differently from the conventional vaccine, which is grown in eggs.

Investigators at the Medical Center are hoping to attract about 150 healthy volunteers to receive an experimental flu shot beginning this week. Volunteers will be vaccinated before Thanksgiving and will return to the University five times for brief check-ups and to have blood samples taken. Nurses will call the volunteers every two weeks to check whether they have symptoms of the flu.

The experimental vaccine instead relies on a cell line drawn from insects known as fall armyworms, which are better known for their role as pests attacking crops such as corn, cotton, barley, and alfalfa. The study of FluBlOk was initiated by flu expert John Treanor, associate professor of medicine and of microbiology and immunology. The study will include a total of 400 to 500 adults ages 18 to 49 at three sites: Rochester, the University of Virginia, and Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

Using a cell line instead of eggs to produce the vaccine would likely slice one or two months off the typical six-month production process, says Treanor, director of the Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit at the University. That could reduce costs and also give scientists and physicians more time each year before they decide on that year's vaccine makeup.

Reduced costs might also make it possible to boost the dose that patients receive. Last year in a study of the same product in 399 elderly people, Treanor found that people who had received more vaccine made twice as many antibodies to ward off flu than healthy people who got the conventional vaccine.

The new study is for healthy people ages 18 through 49 who will not be getting a flu shot otherwise. The study will not include anyone from high-risk groups such as pregnant women, people with pulmonary disease, the elderly, or health care workers. Anyone interested in participating in the study should call the vaccine unit at x3-3990.

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