U-M among recipients of NIH grant to fund flu research

May 23, 2019

It was at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health that Thomas Francis Jr., one of America’s most accomplished virologists and epidemiologists, wrote his groundbreaking paper on “original antigenic sin,” arguing that a person’s first flu exposure affects subsequent influenza exposures.

Aubree Gordon, U-M assistant professor of epidemiology, hopes to continue Francis’ work.

Gordon and an international team of researchers, co-led by Paul Thomas of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, secured a $35 million, seven-year National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases grant to look into that first infection or exposure through influenza vaccination and its effects.

“The grant will allow us to look at ‘imprinting,’ which is this idea of how your first flu exposure affects future exposures,” she said. “And it’s fitting that this work, originally observed and written about at the University of Michigan, will continue to be studied, at least in part, here.

“We’ve actually realized that flu exposure history probably affects your susceptibility to additional influenza infections, although we don’t really understand why. It probably explains why sometimes the vaccine works really well in certain age populations and not others.”

“University of Michigan researchers have been at the forefront of research on influenza, which continues to be a major threat to global public health. We’re excited this grant will allow us to continue on this tradition and make a contribution towards one day developing a universal flu vaccine.”

The grant will allow Gordon and colleagues in Nicaragua to continue the cohort she’s been leading there since 2011 and will add similar cohorts in Los Angeles and New Zealand. Collaborators also include researchers from multiple other U.S. institutions and Australia.

University of Michigan has the full story

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