China Reports New H7N9 Case, US Vaccine Trial May Have An Answer
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
China’s National Health and Family Planning Center (NHFPC) has notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of a new laboratory-confirmed case of human infection with H7N9 avian influenza A. This is the first new case to be identified since August 11, 2013.
The patient is a 35-year-old man from Zhejiang Province who was admitted to a hospital on October 8 and is in critical condition. The man, with the surname Liu, tested positive for the virus at the Zhejiang Province Center for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a statement.
The NHFPC has also announced that a patient from Hebei previously confirmed with H7N9 has died.
To date, the WHO has been informed of 136 laboratory-confirmed human cases of H7N9. The mortality rate is currently about 33 percent, as 45 patients have so far died from this disease. Three patients remain hospitalized and 88 more have been discharged since the first cases began popping up in April. Currently there exists no sustainable human-to-human transmission of H7N9.
According to the WHO, the Chinese government has continued to strictly monitor the viral outbreak and is taking a number of prevention and control measures, including strengthening of epidemic surveillance and analysis, deploying of medical treatment, conducting public risk communication and information distribution, strengthening international cooperation and exchanges, and continuing scientific research on the H7N9 virus.
While China continues its strict stance on H7N9 monitoring, an American medical research team is working to bring avian influenza vaccinations to the table.
Researchers at University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, NY are currently recruiting 48 participants for an isolation-style study to test live-virus bird flu vaccines. The study will focus on two distinct schedules of nasal vaccine and boosters, hoping to give experts an idea of which approach is best at priming the immune system against H7N9.
“In a pandemic, time is of the essence,” said study investigator John Treanor, MD, an internationally known flu expert who heads the University’s Vaccine Research Unit. “While no cases of H7N9 have yet been identified in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control is following the situation closely and taking precautionary action, developing and testing a candidate vaccine in case it was ever needed.”
For the study, Treanor and colleagues will assign study members to one of two groups.
Group one will receive intranasal vaccine, consisting of a live, weakened version of the H7N9 virus. Participants in this group will spend 12 days in an isolation facility and then several weeks later be given a booster shot of inactivated H7N9 in an outpatient setting.
Group two would follow a similar schedule, but instead would receive an additional dose of intranasal vaccine 28 days after the initial dose is given. Members of this group will also be required to spend an additional 12 days in isolation after the follow-up dose, and then, several weeks later, a H7N9 booster would be administered in the outpatient setting.
The researchers will monitor closely how strongly each of the two vaccine schedules triggers production of protective proteins – antibodies – in the participants. The team hopes that the findings will offer a new approach in battling H7N9 infections. The information from this study could help the CDC better prepare for a pandemic of avian influenza A.
Treanor and his colleagues are currently looking for volunteers for the new study. They are asking for healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 49 who may be interested to sign up. Participants should be non-pregnant, non-asthmatic, and have no allergies to eggs. They noted that any patients who have participated in previous avian flu vaccine trials are not eligible and participants must agree to not travel to the Southern Hemisphere in the two weeks prior to initial vaccination.
Participants who complete all study components will be paid between $2,475 and $3,990, depending on how many live vaccine doses/isolation stays are completed.
As for the H7N9, the WHO does not currently advise special screening at points of entry, nor does it currently recommend any travel or trade restrictions in China.
In its latest global flu update, which was released yesterday, the WHO reported that flu activity is currently low in most regions of tropical Asia, except for Hong Kong, which has recently seen an influx in H3N2 cases. The UN-operated health agency has also noted that flu activity remained at inter-seasonal levels in southern China, though the number of flu virus detections was higher this year compared to last year.