Drue Sokol, Photo Editor

For a fourth time, researchers at the UR Medical Center have conducted an influenza study, part of a larger research portfolio that aims to gradually make the seasonal flu epidemic less deadly. URMC is conducting this study in collaboration with Cornell University, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and other partners in the Rochester community.

A team of doctors, nurse practitioners and other medical professionals are currently collecting throat swabs and blood samples from study subjects diagnosed with the flu, as well as family members who test positive for the flu virus.

According to John Treanor, chief of the URMC Infectious Disease Division, the study hopes to “define the relationships between the replication of the virus in the nose and throat, the development of the immune response (T cells and antibodies that can react with the virus) and the role of the very early response of the innate immune system in coordinating these events.”

Samples from subjects who received a flu shot are compared to samples from non-vaccinated subjects to measure the effectiveness of the vaccine.

The study, which is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has collected samples from a few hospitals and nursing homes and expects many more samples to be collected in the coming months. The flu has not been prevalent at UR, but experts in the study expect more cases to arise after winter break because more students will have been exposed to the virus by then.

The researchers encourage people feeling ill to contact them. Once a blood test confirms their flu diagnosis, subjects are asked to return for follow-up visits three, seven, 10 and 28 days after their initial diagnosis. Subjects will be compensated $25 per visit.

“We know it’s inconvenient to make a trip to a research center when you’re not feeling well,” Treanor said. “But this research will provide valuable insight into how the virus behaves, arming us with the information we need to become better at fighting flu.”

Treanor hopes that the study will help predict “how an influenza infection is going to turn out, and [how] immune response to infection is different from the response to vaccination, which might help in designing better influenza vaccines for the future.”

Sanguinetti is a member of the class of 2014.

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