SLU tests new new vaccines

As the threat of bioterrorism remains on the minds of many U.S.
citizens, Saint Louis University is participating in a new study
that will test a next generation smallpox vaccine.

The only institution participating in the trial, the SLU Center
for Vaccine Development will be testing the effectiveness of two
new smallpox vaccines that would replace the former vaccine,
Dryvax.

“The government is concerned about the release of smallpox into
the environment as a method of bioterrorism, said Dr. Sharon Frey,
principle investigator for the study and associate professor of
Internal Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases.

According to Frey, there is a limited supply of Dryvax because
it has not been produced in a number of years. Therefore, there has
been a push to look for newer products.

The new vaccines were created in a more modern way, Frey said.
They are very similar to the old vaccine, except that they are
created using cell cultivation, instead of the method used for
Dryvax.

“Hopefully they will be easier to do and control,” Frey said,
“and a cleaner process with less complications.”

The former vaccine was first discovered in 1796 when British
physicist Edward Jenner noticed that milkmaids who contracted
cowpox were never infected with the more severe smallpox. He then
experimented with an 8-year-old boy by first infecting him with
cowpox and then subjecting him to the smallpox virus. The boy never
developed the disease.

To create the vaccine, fluid was taken from live calves
deliberately infected with the virus. The pustules were scraped
from the calves, and the fluids were freeze-dried, creating the
supply for Dryvax.

The new vaccines are manufactured by Acambis, Inc., which is
funding the study along with the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention.

The study, which begins in one to two weeks, will include 90
adult volunteers who were vaccinated against smallpox prior to Jan.
1, 1977. Thirty volunteers will receive one of the new vaccines, 30
will receive the other vaccine and 30 will receive Dryvax.

SLU was selected as the study site because of its previous
experience with smallpox trials.

Volunteers must be in good health with no chronic illness, no
heart disease, no history of serious allergic reaction, no immune
system problems and no eczema or other significant skin conditions.
Potential volunteers who have significant contact with anyone who
has eczema, is pregnant or with a child less than 12 months of age
will be excluded.

For more information or to participate in the study, call the
Center for Vaccine Development at 1-866-788-3964.