More than 79,000 people died from influenza during the 2017-2018 season according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mortality from the flu could decrease significantly given a 7-year, up to $130 million, National Institutes of Health grant awarded to a team headed by the University of Georgia. The team also includes members from Emory University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and 12 other academic and research centers, to develop a new, more advanced influenza vaccine.
Ted M. Ross, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar of Infectious Diseases in UGA's College of Veterinary Medicine and director of UGA's Center for Vaccines and Immunology, will lead the project to develop a more advanced influenza vaccine designed to protect against multiple strains of influenza virus in a single dose. The vaccine could be administered once every 5 to 10 years, instead of annually, and could especially benefit vulnerable populations including children, the elderly or people with weakened immune systems.
Dr. Ross and his team are currently studying how people of different ages and health status respond to the seasonal influenza vaccine in collaboration with the Georgia CTSA Clinical Research Centers (GCRCs) UGA Clinical and Translational Research Unit. "We need to know how people react to the current commercial seasonal influenza vaccine in order to design improved universal influenza vaccines," Ross says. "The next generation of universal influenza vaccines needs to work in all populations of people; the young, the elderly, pregnant women, people with diabetes or heart disease, immunocompromised people." Ross adds, "The studies we are performing at the GCRCs will help us understand people's response to influenza vaccination."