Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Government pays big bucks for development of eczema safe Smallpox vaccine

Image of a 22 year old woman who developed Eczema vaccinatum. Photo credit:
CDC http://www.bt.cdc.gov/training/smallpoxvaccine/reactions/ec_vac.html.

Do you have atopic dermatitis, also called eczema? You certainly aren't alone. Approximately 10 to 15% of the US population has eczema, and it is estimated that around the same amount of Americans have a medical history with the common skin condition.

Your red, bumpy eczema might just be annoying, but it could be deadly if it is ever necessary that you receive the current smallpox vaccine. The problem is that the smallpox vaccine is contraindicated in individuals with eczema, those with a previous history of eczema, and even those living in close quarters with family members who have the condition. Individuals with eczema have an extremely high risk of developing a condition called eczema vaccinatum, in which the live virus in the vaccine spreads through the body and causes severe rashes over the area once affected by the eczema. The CDC recommends that members of this large, high-risk population NOT be vaccinated against smallpox.

The federal government has expanded a previous contract with a company called Bavarian Nordic by $15 million with the hopes of developing a new smallpox vaccine that would be tolerated by those with atopic dermatitis. The contract provides the funding needed to test the experimental vaccine IMVAMUNE in Phase II trials.

Developing a smallpox vaccine that would be safe for this considerable high-risk portion of the US population is of strategic importance.

The press release about IVAMUNE and Bavarian Nordic is here. Bavarian Nordic is headquartered in Denmark, but operates a subsidiary right next door in Mountain View!

Still interested? Check out this great article about the search for the pathogenesis underlying the vaccinia-eczema relationship.

Lauren Smith

PS. As a child, I had pretty severe eczema. There's no way I could get the current smallpox vaccine!

No comments: