New Tests for Pneumonia Vaccine for Elderly

Research by Strong Physicians Targets Public Health Priority

January 03, 2001

A breakthrough vaccine for infants and children is now being studied in a new form for the elderly at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

In February, the Food and Drug Administration approved Prevnar as the first conjugate vaccine to protect infants and children against bacterial meningitis, pneumonia and ear infections. The vaccine was based on groundbreaking research done in the 1980s at Children's Hospital at Strong, and has the potential to save millions of lives and billions of dollars in health care costs.

Now, a second-generation Prevnar vaccine is being tested on adults, especially those aged 65 and older, for protection against pneumonia.

"Despite the availability of the standard pneumonia shot, pneumococcal disease continues to exact a heavy toll among older Americans, with an estimated 300 cases of pneumonia and 70 cases of severe, invasive disease per 100,000 persons per year,'' said John Treanor, M.D., Associate Professor in the Infectious Diseases Unit at the University of Rochester Medical Center. " Developing better ways to prevent pneumonia in the elderly is a critical public health priority."

Treanor and Mark Shelly, M.D., an Assistant Professor in Infectious Diseases, have begun two studies.

The first is an in-depth comparison of a derivative of Prevnar and an existing vaccine, called Pnuimmune, which is being used on older adults with limited success. The second project will explore the use of an adjuvant (a chemical added to Prevnar) to find out if the added ingredient improves the immune system's response to the vaccine.

The research is part of an ongoing effort by the National Institutes of Health to find ways to improve the performance of vaccines in at-risk groups such as the elderly, Treanor said.

The NIH is funding the first study, which is being done in collaboration with investigators from Children's Hospital of Cincinnati. The second study is funded by Aquila, a wholly owned subsidiary of Antigenics Inc., the biotechnology company that makes the adjuvant. The UR Medical Center is the only site in the country conducting that trial.

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