“This is a tremendous advance for us,” Ross, also the Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar of Infectious Diseases in UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine, said in a telephone interview.
Flu season usually begins in October and ends in February. Last year, over 1,500 people in metro Atlanta were hospitalized for flu-related illnesses, and 44 people died from the flu.
Georgia's 2017-2018 flu season was particularly brutal. The long-lasting flu season didn't subside until the end of April. It claimed 145 lives statewide and led to more than 3,000 hospitalizations in metro Atlanta.
While many companies and schools offer free flu shots, polls show more than a third of Americans don’t get the shots.
Ross has worked since 2005 on vaccine strategies that have been tested on laboratory animals. The initial research will include testing vaccines in healthy adults. Vaccines will then be tested for high-risk groups, such as the elderly, children, pregnant women and people with diabetes or obesity.
Although influenza can change, Ross said he’s confident some vaccines will be effective for longer periods.
“I’m anxious to see how well it works,” he said. “I’m pretty optimistic it will work well in humans.”
Emory University and Georgia Tech are part of the team that will partner in the research. Ross said the team, which includes 37 investigators and more than 100 research technicians worldwide, filed a 250-page application in November for a contract to create a vaccine. The team learned it was a finalist in May.
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