Children's Hospital Boston receives more than $10 million to help make smallpox vaccine safer

re different components of the immune response to the vaccinia virus used in smallpox vaccine, seek biochemical factors that predispose mice to EV, and test possible preventive therapies. The researchers hypothesize that an abnormal immune response in the skin makes people with atopic dermatitis susceptible to EV after smallpox vaccination. Dr. Hans Oettgen, clinical director of Immunology at CHB, will use animal models to further examine the role of skin abnormalities. His team will compare immune responses to the vaccinia virus with responses to two other viruses: herpes simplex virus, which also causes severe skin infections, and yellow fever virus, which infects via the skin, but does not cause skin disease.

Dr. Lynda Schneider, director of the Allergy Program at CHB, will be one of six principal investigators in the Clinical Studies Consortium. Under a three-year grant of approximately $450,000, her team will investigate the immune response to vaccination with live varicella virus, a less harmful skin virus that causes chickenpox and shingles. Children with and without atopic dermatitis will receive live varicella vaccine and undergo a battery of lab tests three weeks later. Varicella will act as a surrogate for vaccinia, yielding clues about how atopic dermatitis may alter the immune response to live virus vaccines.

Understanding the relationship between atopic dermatitis and EV is important because atopic dermatitis is so common, with the highest prevalence in young children. During the 1960s, when smallpox vaccine was still being given, EV was estimated to cause 10 to 39 cases of EV per million people vaccinated. Today, the potential number of cases is believed to be much higher, since atopic dermatitis has become much more prevalent in the population.


Contact: Mary-Ellen Shay
Children's Hospital Boston

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