New research that focuses on the composition and timing of the shot design was published in the September-October issue of Operations Research by Pitt Swanson School of Engineering faculty members Oleg Prokopyev, an assistant professor, and Professor Andrew Schaefer, both in the Department of Industrial Engineering, and coauthors Osman Ozaltin and Mark Roberts, professor and chair in Pitt's Department of Health Policy and Management.
Ozaltin, who is now an assistant professor of engineering at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, did his research for the study as a Pitt graduate student in the Swanson School; he earned his Pitt PhD degree in industrial engineering earlier this year.
The exact composition of the flu shot is decided every year by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the decision is complicated.
"The flu's high rate of transmission requires frequent changes to the shot," said Prokopyev. "Different strains can also cocirculate in one season, which gives us another challenge for figuring out the composition."
The Pitt researchers used powerful optimization methods from engineering to examine whether they could improve the yearly decisions made regarding what strains of influenza should be included in the current year's vaccine. The strains of flu that will be most likely to appear in the regular flu season are not known with certainty, but waiting longer to finalize the composition of the vaccine and observing what strains are occurring in other parts of the world improves the accuracy of the selection. However, the longer the FDA waits to make the decision, the more likely it is that there will be insufficient vaccine produced by the start of flu season. The model developed by the Pitt researchers balances these two important characteristics of the flu selection decision and integrates the composition and timing decisions of the flu shot design.
The model allows examination of the effect of many changes to the design and production of the vaccine, such as how many strains to include in the shot, when to make the final decision, how many times the FDA should meet to re-examine the current information concerning strains in other parts of the world, and the potential benefits from improved production methods.
"With this model, several policy questions can be addressed," said Schaefer. "For example, incorporating more than three strains might increase the societal benefit substantially, particularly under more severe flu seasons."
"The strains in the flu shot are now chosen at least six months before the actual flu season," added Schaefer. "This leaves a lot of uncertainty because we're really not sure which strain will emerge. Our models provide insights into a better flu shot."
The Pitt study focused solely on the United States, where the FDA makes the final decision about the flu shot composition soon after recommendations from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control. The current flu shot contains inactivated strains of two influenza A subtypes and one influenza B lineage. The flu shot production is also limited by the scarcest strain, as the three strains are combined together to compose the shot.
"The three strains in the current flu shot are grown separately in chicken eggs and combined together to produce a single dose," said Ozaltin. "Our model considers all three strains simultaneously, because unanticipated difficulties in growing a strain might result in reductions in the overall flu shot supply."
The Pitt researchers note that currently only six manufacturers provide the flu shot for the U.S. market. Once the strains are selected by an FDA advisory committee, manufacturers move forward in making their own plans to maximize profits.
"We're suggesting a policy that includes more frequent committee meetings," said Prokopyev. "That could provide additional gains in the annual societal benefit of the flu shot."
For the future, the results suggest a substantial potential benefit from improved manufacturing techniques. With more research in this area, a more appropriate flu shot could be produced annually, saving Americans millions of dollars and preventing substantial influenza complications.
"This is another excellent example of the benefits of collaborative, multidisciplinary research that the University of Pittsburgh is famous for," notes Roberts. "Our group has been applying methods developed in engineering and designed for industry to very real problems in health and disease, and finding that they can provide insights not previously observed using traditional clinical research methods."
B. Rose Huber | EurekAlert!
Penn vet research identifies new target for taming Ebola
12.01.2017 | University of Pennsylvania
The strange double life of Dab2
10.01.2017 | University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
UMD, NOAA collaboration demonstrates suitability of in-orbit datasets for weather satellite calibration
"Traffic and weather, together on the hour!" blasts your local radio station, while your smartphone knows the weather halfway across the world. A network of...
Fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) are frequently used in the aeronautic and automobile industry. However, the repair of workpieces made of these composite materials is often less profitable than exchanging the part. In order to increase the lifetime of FRP parts and to make them more eco-efficient, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and the Apodius GmbH want to combine a new measuring device for fiber layer orientation with an innovative laser-based repair process.
Defects in FRP pieces may be production or operation-related. Whether or not repair is cost-effective depends on the geometry of the defective area, the tools...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
16.01.2017 | Information Technology
16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering