Associate professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology John Treanor has developed an influenza vaccine that, if successful, will be used by doctors everywhere to protect patients from the flu.
“We don’t know whether flu shots made this new way can actually prevent against flu,” Treanor said. “We know it makes antibodies, but it’s not proven to prevent against the flu yet. We are trying to see whether it does.”
Every flu season, one in five people are infected with the virus. Hence, to keep from getting sick, many people opt to be injected with a flu vaccine made from a complicated process involving fertilized chicken eggs.
However, the complexity of this procedure often makes it virtually impossible to make enough of the vaccine to adequately protect everyone in need, especially elderly people who can die from the virus.
The current flu vaccine works by fooling the body into making antibodies to fight against the virus. It is made by injecting the flu virus into a fertilized chicken egg until it multiplies.
Since it takes so long to make, it is expensive and also makes it difficult for the virus to grow in the eggs. This year, one major company that produces the vaccine had problems developing it and therefore could not market nearly enough.
Treanor is working to develop a vaccine using molecular biology to synthesize proteins from DNA, similar to the process presently used to make the hepatitis shot. The antibody response is identical, yet it is much faster and more efficient to make.
In order to do this, Treanor is looking for a test group of healthy individuals under the age of 49. He will inject half of the group with the vaccine and another group with a placebo around Thanksgiving.
He will continue to keep in touch with them through the flu season, then compare how often the people only injected with the placebo get the flu versus those injected with the vaccine.
Around $250 will be awarded to everyone who participates in the study. Interested students should call x3-3990 to get involved.
“We appreciate all the help from UR students in the past,” Treanor said. “If it all works, we’ll be very happy and it will certainly be one of the flu shots doctors would use.”
The University of Virginia and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital are also involved in this study that, if successful, will benefit many flu sufferers with more vaccines for lower prices.
Paret can be reached at