Scientists are launching a research study to check the effectiveness of a new type of flu vaccine that is made differently than the conventional vaccine, which is grown in eggs. The experimental vaccine instead relies on a cell line drawn from insects known as silk moths, which are better known for their role as pests attacking crops such as corn, cotton, barley and alfalfa.
The study of FluBlOk, made by Protein Sciences Corp. of Meriden, Ct., was initiated by flu expert John Treanor, M.D., professor of medicine and director of the Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit at the University of Rochester Medical Center. The study will include a total of 400 to 500 adults ages 18 to 49 at three sites: Rochester, the University of Virginia, and Cincinnati Childrens Hospital.
Since the 1940s the chicken has been at the center of flu vaccination efforts, because fertilized chicken eggs are used to grow the flu viruses used in vaccines. Each egg contains less than a teaspoonful of material that will ultimately become part of a vaccine. Because of the complexity and sheer size of the process – tens of millions of eggs must be produced, and vaccine material must be "harvested" from each – its typically a six-month process to produce enough vaccine for the public, when everything goes well.
Tom Rickey | EurekAlert!
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