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As the world watches the developing story of the influenza A (H1N1) outbreak, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is working collaboratively with other research centers to help develop an effective vaccine.
The St. Jude Division of Virology in the Department of Infectious Diseases received the virus earlier this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The first activities are to develop vaccine seeds and reagents. Reagents are needed for detection and also for future research. Vaccine seeds should be approximately four weeks away. The scientists will also be exploring whether existing vaccines against seasonal viruses protect against this virus. The combination of efforts across the hospital will involve about 50 employees.
In the past several years, St. Jude has produced the seed strains for H5N1 (avian influenza) viruses. Richard Webby, Ph.D., associate member in the St. Jude Infectious Diseases department, used reverse genetics to make the first such seed strain. The resulting vaccine was identified by Time magazine as one of the major scientific achievements of 2007.
Of the five World Health Organization (WHO) collaborating centers, the St. Jude center is the only one that focuses solely on the transmission of animal viruses to humans. The St. Jude center increased in international prominence during the past decade after the appearance of the avian virus.
In 2007, St. Jude was designated as one of six Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a part of the National Institutes of Health.
Visit the following Web sites for answers to commonly asked questions concerning influenza A (H1N1):
May 1, 2009