Tuesday, November 29, 2005

News - Scientists look for H5N1 answers in yellow fever vaccine - myDNA

Rockefeller University's Charlie Rice thinks that scientists struggling to create a vaccine to protect against the widely predicted avian flu pandemic might learn a thing or two from yellow fever.

"The yellow fever 17D vaccine is one of the most successful vaccines ever created," says Rice, the Maurice R. and Corinne P. Greenberg Professor and head of the Laboratory for Virology and Infectious Disease. "Surprisingly, though, how it elicits such a robust immunity has never been addressed."

But by studying how the yellow fever vaccine creates a potent, lifelong immunity after a single shot, Rockefeller scientists say they could unlock secrets that would help design new vaccines to target not only the influenza virus, but perhaps other infectious diseases such as HIV or hepatitis C. In a new paper published this month in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, Rice and his colleagues demonstrate one mechanism by which the vaccine does its job: By infecting specific cells in the immune system, they say, the inoculation promotes an unexpectedly robust immune response.

Yellow fever is a deadly virus, most common in the tropical areas of Africa and South America, which causes hemorrhage and multiple organ failure, and is lethal in 20 to 50 percent of all cases.

"The characteristics of yellow fever make it tricky," says Randy Longman, co-first author and a biomedical fellow in Rice's lab. "With infectious diseases, you want to develop a mouse model of how the disease works. But yellow fever doesn't infect mice the same way it infects humans, so we have to gather data using humans to understand how the virus works."

News: Scientists look for H5N1 answers in yellow fever vaccine - myDNA

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