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Volunteers sought for avian flu vaccine study

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is enrolling volunteers in a study to test a new vaccine that targets avian flu, the first such vaccine against the virus. The Vanderbilt trial, led by Kathryn Edwards, M.D., will test the new vaccine in nearly 100 individuals 65 years of age and over. It is the second phase of anational study led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The first phase of the avian flu vaccine trial, conducted at various other medical centers around the country, tested the vaccine in normal, healthy adults and determined it was safe to test in other populations.

The development of a widespread epidemic of avian influenza, or "birdflu," is of growing concern throughout the world.

Human cases, with a high fatality rate, have been reported in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. Public health experts fear that avian flu could lead to a worldwide pandemic if the virus becomes easily transmittable,leading to a public health crisis.

Currently, most people are highly vulnerable to infection from avianinfluenza, as the current influenza vaccines do not protect against thisnew strain of the virus, making the development of new vaccines againstavian flu a major priority.

"We believe in some cases in Asia that the avian flu has been passed from human to human, and we're concerned that the virus will evolve to spread easily among the human population and become a global pandemic,"said Edwards, professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and vice chairof clinical research in the Department of Pediatrics.

"Developing an effective vaccine is our best defense. The elderly, in particular, could be at high risk for complications and death from infection, so it is very important to test the new vaccine in older adults."

Avian flu first emerged in Hong Kong in 1997 and has spread among poultry populations in some Asian countries. Humans have contracted the virus from sick animals, and evidenc
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Source:Vanderbilt University Medical Center


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