Thursday, October 28, 2010
According to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) will grant $23 million a year, for seven years, to six new Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance.
The ultimate goal of the Centers of Excellence is to help the federal government prepare for and respond to influenza outbreaks, especially those that may lead to pandemics or worldwide epidemics as has been feared since the initial outbreak of H5N1 (avian influenza A) in China in 1997. The centers will work with NIAID's influenza surveillance program, both in the U.S. and worldwide, to learn more about influenza viruses - specifically how they cause disease and how the human immune system responds to them.
The media report says that St. Jude will also be involved in basic research, as well as surveillance of viruses. Dr. Robert Webster is a member of the Infectious Diseases department at St. Jude. With respect to this new contract, he said, "There are a variety of viruses to monitor besides the well-known H5N1. For example, H7N7 infected chicken industry workers in the Netherlands; and H9N2, which circulates in many global avian populations, also sporadically appears in humans."
This is not the first contract that St. Jude has had with NIAID. In 1999, two years after the avian flu outbreak in Hong Kong, St. Jude was awarded an NIAID contract to watch and study aquatic birds, especially ducks, and birds in live markets in Hong Kong. During this time, St. Jude was also involved in training others in the techniques of animal influenza surveillance and developing tests to detect and identify viruses. As a result of this work, St. Jude was also able to provide the NIAID with seed vaccines.
The media report says that influenza viruses will be monitored in several states and in more than a dozen countries over the next seven years. St. Jude will also monitor children in Hong Kong hospitals who are there for influenza and conduct surveillance in Southeast Asia in cases where children have been hospitalized for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Dr. Richard Webby is an assistant member in the Division of Virology in the Infectious Diseases department at St. Jude. In the media report, he said that St. Jude's selection as a Center of Excellence "recognizes both the enormous contribution that St. Jude has made over the last several decades in the study of animal influenza viruses, as well as our leadership role in this area." That contribution is expected to continue in that St. Jude will also be involved in evaluating anti-viral drug treatments and causes of drug resistance during its work in the NIAID- funded program.
The other five hospitals also designated as Centers of Excellence are the University of California in Los Angeles, the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Emory University in Atlanta, Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y.
St. Jude media report, http://www.stjude.org/media/0,2561,453_2086_22870,00.html
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