Developments to Watch
THE TAMING OF THE FLU AMONG NEWBORNS
Flu vaccines work safely in children and adults. But they can be ineffective or cause fever in infants under six months--the group at highest risk for the flu. So, researchers are testing a nose-drop vaccine that avoids these problems.
Developed at the University of Michigan, Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, and the National Institutes of Health, the vaccine has already proven effective in 9,000 adults and children. Unlike the usual flu vaccine, which contains dead virus, the nose drops deliver live, weakened virus. Doctors at the Johns Hopkins Center for Immunization Research tested the new vaccine in 30 infants aged two to five months. Six babies got a low dose, 15 got a stronger dose, and 9 got drops with no virus. More than two-thirds of the first group and nearly 90% of the second developed antibodies that protect against the flu. The babies in the control group developed no antibodies.
The nose-drop vaccine needs more testing, says Dr. Mark Steinhoff, leader of the Hopkins team, but it may be on the market within three years.EDITED BY FLEUR TEMPLETON