Mayo Clinic researchers have found that a person's genes play an important role in the level of protection offered by smallpox vaccine, a new study published in the journal Genes and Immunity reveals.
"We were looking into the intercellular reactions that occur when vaccinated and unvaccinated persons are exposed to and infected with smallpox virus. We were able to use blood samples taken directly from vaccinated patients," says senior author Gregory Poland, M.D., director of the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group. "We could see what would happen based on exposing a mixed-cell peripheral blood cell population to the vaccinia virus."
While worldwide vaccination is believed to have eradicated smallpox, the highly contagious and sometimes fatal illness remains a bioterrorism concern.
Dr. Poland says this individualized medicine approach and its findings offer researchers new targets for developing tests to determine if a person should receive a specific vaccine, but also an opportunity to develop new vaccines to benefit non-responders.