September 26, 2006
Contact: Melissa Campbell
Survivors of 1918 Flu Epidemic Sought for Study at UMDNJ
Antibodies of Relatives May Provide Valuable Information
NEWARK — Researchers at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School are seeking people born in 1915 or earlier who survived the 1918 flu epidemic for a study that is attempting to profile antibodies which may be helpful in fighting a 21st century flu epidemic.
Eric Altschuler, MD, PhD, an Instructor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, is collaborating with researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City in this study, which analyzes blood drawn from participants. Christopher Basler, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, is an expert in viruses including Ebola and pandemic flu virus and serves as the co-investigator.
Individuals in their 90s, with relatives who passed away as a result of the flu, and who believe they are currently healthy enough to have a small amount of blood drawn can contact Dr. Altschuler at 973-972-5439 to participate in the study.
The study involves one visit, lasting less than an hour, to UMDNJ’s University Hospital in Newark in order for blood to be drawn. There is no payment for taking part in this study, but a small reimbursement will be made for the expense of travel for the study.
The premise of the study rests on the fact that because the flu virus cycles, the possibility of a recurrence of the 1918 flu strain exists. If people exposed to the 1918 flu still carry B-cells - the cells that make antibodies - these cells could be used to combat a recurrence. The study could also help understand how long B-cells live, a question that remains unanswered.
Founded in 1954 as the Seton Hall College of Medicine and Dentistry, the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School was the state’s first medical school. Today, it is part of UMDNJ, the nation’s largest health sciences institution.
UMDNJ is the nation’s largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and a school of public health on five campuses. Annually, there are more than two million patient visits at UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.