The UR Medical Center will be conducting two studies over the next few months to test the immune system response to the smallpox vaccine.
Although it was determined that smallpox was no longer a threat in 1972 and ceased to exist in nature, Clinical Research Coordinator Diane O’Brien said, recent threats of bioterrorism have brought this disease and the ability to protect people from it into the spotlight again.
“Many people have not been vaccinated and there is such a small supply of the vaccination,” O’Brien said. These factors make this study very timely and important, she said.
Two different studies will be taking place at the medical center, one of which is part of a larger national study that the UR Medical Center is leading. Nationwide, 900 adult volunteers who received the smallpox vaccine as children before it stopped being administered will be tested in this study.
Of the 900 volunteers, 185 will be tested right here in Rochester. The remaining 715 volunteers will be tested at six other locations across the country.
In this study, varying doses of the vaccination will be administered to see what dilution of the vaccine is effective. The doses to be tested are an undiluted dose, one-fifth the normal dose and one-tenth the normal dose, O’Brien said.
This study will be similar to one conducted last year. In that study all dilutions proved to be effective.
The second, smaller study will take place solely in Rochester. In this study the 45 participants will be divided among three groups of 15 people each. The first group will be made up of people who have never received the smallpox vaccination. The second group will be those who have very recently received the vaccination. The final group will be comprised of adults who received the vaccination as children prior to 1972.
“The goal of this study is to define immune response,” Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology Dr. David Topman said. Researchers want to find out how much immunity is persisting from those who received the vaccination decades ago to determine how much of the vaccine would be needed to protect them from the disease.
According to Topman, the vaccination that is used to create immunity to smallpox is called vaccinia or cowpox. The vaccinia vaccine, while still a virus, does not contain the actual smallpox virus.
Topman said that as of now the vaccine is in limited supply, but as researchers learn how the original vaccine works, it will be possible to design new vaccines and test them.
Once the volunteers for the study are enrolled, the studies should take two to three months, with completion expected around the end of March, O’Brien said.
Anyone interested in participating in either study and meets the qualifications should call the Vaccine Treatment Evaluation Unit at 273-3990.