Clinical Research Training Spotlight: A Look at the Development of the Flu VaccineDecember 5, 2017
The development of a dependable influenza (flu) vaccine was a major breakthrough for public health. For centuries, societies had suffered from seasonal outbreaks of this debilitating infectious disease. Nowadays, the lethal effect of the flu has been tempered in part via vaccination programs, but the disease still poses an ongoing risk, especially to the young, old, and those with compromised immune systems. Here’s how the ongoing development and persistent research around the vaccine has turned it into one of our enduring public health achievements. It’s a wonderful look into the important role that clinical researchers have in keeping the public safe.
Origins and Breakthrough
The origins of the flu vaccine can be traced back to 1918, when the world was in the grips of a particularly deadly influenza pandemic. The outbreak in question was the ‘Spanish Flu’ outbreak, which ultimately killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide. The harshness of this outbreak, with a high mortality rate even amongst healthy adults, impacted military personnel at the end of World War 1 and impressed onto government and academia alike the need for an effective flu vaccine.
Year by year, progress was made. In 1933, the first isolation of the influenza virus was completed and trailblazing research using viral development in hens’ eggs contributed to the first commercial influenza vaccine in 1945. Applied clinical research had delivered a potent weapon against the disease, but further challenges lay ahead. It soon became clear that without constant clinical research, this tool would soon be lost.
New Methods and the Refinement of Clinical Research Training
One of the major discoveries that occurred during the hunt for an effective influenza vaccine was that of an entirely different strain of the disease, which was labelled influenza B. This strain produces fewer outbreaks in humans than the ubiquitous influenza A, but still has the potential to cause seasonal infections.
As the nature of influenza was better researched, professionals forging their clinical research careers began to grasp that this living organism was in a state on constant flux, and mutated at a constant rate. Thus, further refinement was carried out to ensure that flu vaccines included aspects of both A and B influenzas, to better block the likelihood of infection. A third type, influenza C, was also identified. At this juncture, the subtlety and complexity of this disease was becoming more apparent to research professionals, and this spurred increased research to try to better counter and understand the sustained risk it continued to pose. Additionally, the need to train new professionals in the intricacies of producing countermeasures became increasingly apparent. The hard work and fascinating discoveries made during this time help to illustrate what makes this career, and the dedicated professionals who pursue it, so important.
Modern Needs and Annual Demand Drives Clinical Research Careers
Today, the world relies on the effectiveness of continued clinical research to keep the dangers of influenza at bay. Generations have come and gone since the initial vaccines, and the need for dedicated and talented professionals with clinical research training is still present in order to continually minimize the human and financial toll of this persistent infection.
There is no outright cure for the flu, but vulnerability to it can be minimized through the effectiveness of current vaccines, better understanding of new mutations, and hard work and dedication. It should be noted that proper commercial regulation and documentation plays a crucial role in the development of vaccines, being part of the chain of professional activities that support this vital work.
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