Want to Get the Flu? Volunteers Sneeze for Science

Source: Associated Press


In an effort to develop a better flu vaccine, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is conducting a study that involves infecting as many as 100 adults with the flu over the next year. Rather than study people who are already sick with the flu, scientists plan to infect participants by injecting the live virus up their noses so that they can measure the immune system’s reaction during each step of infection beginning with the first exposure. The study involves a dose that produces mild to moderate symptoms, and volunteers must be healthy, age 50 and under, and spend at least nine days in a special isolation ward at the NIH hospital, being released only after nasal tests indicate they are no longer contagious. Volunteers will receive about $3,000 for taking part in the study. Dr. Matthew Memoli, the study’s lead researcher, says: “Vaccines are working, but we could do better.” For instance, he says it is uncertain what makes young adults better able than the elderly to fight the virus, what is the best antibody level, or whether a certain amount of antibodies determines whether people come down with a mild or severe case of the flu. Dr. John Treanor, flu specialist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, is keeping an eye on the study because it will “add up to a better understanding of what you need to have to be protected against the flu.”