July 22, 2009

BCM To Participate In National H1N1 Clinical Trials

The Vaccine Treatment and Evaluation Unit at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM VTEU) is part of a federally funded network of such centers that will take part this summer in a series of studies that will help determine the best dose of several experimental vaccines designed to protect against the 2009 H1N1 (swine) influenza.  BCM will participate in several studies of the candidate vaccines.

"These trials are important because we are in an influenza pandemic, and we don't have effective vaccines for prevention," said Dr. Wendy Keitel, professor of molecular virology and microbiology at BCM and director of the BCM VTEU, funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.      

Pandemic refers to the worldwide spread of a new form of flu virus now known as novel H1N1 (formerly called swine flu virus). Infections caused by the novel H1N1 viruses were first recognized in Mexico.   They then spread to the United States and beyond in April.  The World Health Organization declared a pandemic in June.  The virus has continued to infect people here and has spread to the southern hemisphere, where it is winter.  The development of vaccines for the prevention of another form of flu that began in birds ("Ëœbird flu') has prepared the scientific community for evaluation of these new vaccines.

Keitel said the help of the community is essential in finding out how best to stimulate the immune system against this form of influenza virus.  People of different ages may have different needs, because similar viruses have circulated in the community in the past.

"The only way that we can gather good information about immune responses is if people participate in these clinical trials.  That will help us determine the best way to use these vaccines," said Keitel.  "We are grateful for the participation of people in the community, without which we wouldn't have been able to do any of this work over so many years."

Recruitment for the studies, which will include persons in all age groups "“from infants to the elderly "“ will begin within the next few weeks.  The information gleaned from the trials will help determine the optimal doses for multiple age groups and risk groups, including older adults, children, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems.  

People who would like to obtain more information can call the Baylor Vaccine Research Center at 713-798-4912.


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