NIH starts testing H7N9 avian flu vaccine candidate

Researchers with the National Institutes of Health began testing an investigational H7N9 avian influenza vaccine on Wednesday at nine sites throughout the U.S.

The two Phase II clinical trials, sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, are meant to gather necessary information about the safety of the candidate vaccine and the immune system response induced at different doses and with or without adjuvants. The trials will evaluate a vaccine candidate developed by Sanofi Pasteur.

"H7N9 avian influenza virus - like all novel influenza virus strains to which people have not been exposed - has the potential to cause widespread sickness and mortality," Anthony Fauci, the director of the NIAID, said. "We are now testing a vaccine candidate with and without adjuvant in an effort to prepare for and, hopefully, protect against this possibility."

The studies are expected to conclude in December 2014.

Human cases of H7N9 influenza started to emerge in China in February with most reported infections occurring in the spring. According to the World Health Organization, there were 135 confirmed cases in humans, including 44 deaths, as of August 12. Most of the cases occurred among people who came into contact with infected poultry.

While no H7N9 influenza cases were reported outside of China and the virus did not demonstrate sustained person-to-person transmission, there is concern the virus could mutate and result in a much greater threat to public health.

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National Institutes of Health

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