Adults who were vaccinated against smallpox as children can be successfully revaccinated by using diluted doses of the vaccine and with fewer side effects, according to research published by Saint Louis University this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “We saw fewer adverse reactions in the participants who had been vaccinated before,” said Sharon Frey, M.D., the lead author of the study and an associate professor at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. “Our study included healthy adult volunteers between the ages of 32 and 60 who previously had been vaccinated. Our comparison group consisted of individuals who were otherwise healthy and between the ages of 18 and 31, who had never received a smallpox vaccination.”
A reasonable defense against an airborne anthrax attack requires more aggressive action by the U.S. government than now planned, says a new study from Stanford Universiy. The government is relying too heavily on biosensors to pinpoint an anthrax attack and not doing enough to get large quantities of drugs and medical personnel to affected areas within hours, says the team at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.
Two versions of an oral drug that halts the deadly action of smallpox and related orthopox viruses have been shown by researchers in Alabama and California to be effective in cowpox-infected mice, whether given three to five days before or two to three days after infection. The study evaluated the dosage regimen and effectiveness of four different ether lipid analogs of cidofovir (CDV), a compound that blocks the activity of variola, the virus that causes smallpox, cowpox, vaccinia and other orthopox viruses. Shown most effective in treating lethal cowpox infection in mice were hexadecyloxypropyl-CDV (HDP-CDV) and octadecyloxyethyl-CDV (ODE-CDV). In addition, the study pinpointed the time period for effectiveness when the drug is administered prior to or after infection.
HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today announced the award of two contracts totaling up to $20 million in first-year funding to develop safer smallpox vaccines. The three-year contracts were awarded to Bavarian Nordic A/S of Copenhagen, Denmark, and Acambis Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) will administer the contracts.
HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today invited all persons with questions about smallpox and the President’s vaccination plan to visit www.smallpox.gov for comprehensive and up-to-the-minute information. “This is a complicated issue that involves a careful balance between the possibility that smallpox might actually be released at some time by terrorists, and the known risks that are associated with the vaccine itself,” Secretary Thompson said. “I know from my own experience that this issue is complex and difficult, and we need to have answers easily available.”
With all the discussion about possible smallpox bioterrorism attacks in the U.S., has the dermatology world begun to address the cosmetic implications that an outbreak would entail? Sure, it sounds petty when lives are at stake. But if thousands of people stand to potentially become infected, has medicine developed any better means of preventing disfigurement? Drainage? Lots and lots of aloe gel? Sedatives to keep people doped until the pustules pass?
A new reports says that up to half of all U.S. residents may be ineligible for smallpox vaccination because of the growing incidence of eczema. In a report appearing in the September issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Dr. Renata J.M. Engler from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, and colleagues note that in people with eczema, exposure to vaccinia — a relative of smallpox used to inoculate people — or even contact with someone who was recently vaccinated can cause a condition that can lead to scarring, blindness and even death. “A major challenge lies in the ability to protect the population from the disease while minimizing the considerable side effects from the vaccine,” Reuters quotes from their report. The researchers say more studies should be conducted to help identify people who are prone to side vaccinia effects. Others who should avoid smallpox vaccination include people with immune deficiency diseases such as AIDS, and those on immune system-suppressing drugs, such as transplant patients.
A new study suggests smallpox vaccine immunity may last far longer than expected. Scientists had believed that the vaccine generally only conferred protection from the deadly virus for about a decade. But a study released this week found evidence that people may be covered for 35 years or more, meaning many Americans could retain some level of immunity. The study looked at blood samples from laboratory workers who had been immunized in the last five years and those who had been vaccinated up to 35 years earlier.
Vaccinating hundreds of thousands of Americans would be more effective in the case of an intentional or accidental outbreak of smallpox than a more limited “ring” plan endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some specialists believe. “Mass vaccination really leads to fewer deaths than the CDC interim plan,” Lawrence Wein of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told Reuters. Besides, he said, if there were a smallpox attack, “I think it highly likely that people would take to the streets to demand vaccination, or would flee.” Of course, the smallpox vaccine could be fatal or severely debilitating for many people, including those with common skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.