"There is an H7N9 avian influenza virus that is circulating in Asia and people are concerned this may be a future cause of pandemic flu," said Dr Susan Frey, clinical director of SLU's Center for Vaccine Development. "The concern is whether once it gets into humans from birds it may mutate enough to jump from person to person just like regular flu does. And so if that ever becomes the case, we'd like to be ready with a vaccine that might work against it."
Avian flu from the H7N9 strain began circulating in China in 2013. It is mostly infecting people after they interacted with live poultry that were already infected by the virus. As of September 2018, a total of 1,567 cases have been reported to the World Health Organization.
"The issue with the strains is that they mutate and they change," said Dr. Frey. "Although we've done other avian flu vaccine studies in the past, we are now looking at a slightly different H7N9 influenza strain that is circulating at this time."
Dr. Frey says they'll be testing an investigational H7N9 vaccine to see if it triggers an immune response that prompts the body to make anti-bodies to fight the infection.
Saint Louis University is looking for up to 80 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 64 to take part in the study -- which involves an inactivated flu virus which cannot give a person influenza. The study will last up to 13 months. It also includes as many as seven clinic visits and five phone calls. Study volunteers will receive $75 a visit as compensation for their time.