SLU seeks 250 people for smallpox study

As part of its recently announced project to create a smallpox vaccine to fight bioterrorism, Saint Louis University has begun seeking 250 volunteers to inject with smallpox.

The National Institute of Health is sponsoring SLU's Center for Vaccine Development's study, which has begun combing St. Louis, Atlanta, Iowa, Maryland and Seattle for participants.

The study is seeking people who are 18 years of age or older who were born after 1971 and who have never been vaccinated for smallpox.

Smallpox, which is a highly contagious disease that causes fluid-filled blisters to form and carries and estimated mortality rate of 35 percent, was officially eradicated in December 1979 according to the World Health Organization.

Concerns have arisen, however, that smallpox could be used as an agent for bioterrorism, leading the United States to take steps to develop a vaccine against the virus.

SLU's study will research the difference in immune responses between liquid or powder with liquid added vaccines that are given either just under the skin or between the layers of the skin.

Bavarian Nordic's smallpox vaccine Imvamune will be used in the study. Imvamune can be stored as both a liquid and a powder, with the powder combined with a liquid prior to injecting it.

“If we find that giving the vaccine intradermally is safe and prompts an immune response that is as strong as when the vaccine is given subcutaneously, we potentially could protect more people with the same amount of vaccine,” Dr. Sharon Frey, principal investigator and professor of infectious diseases at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, said in a statement.