Sara Jones, Post-Doctoral Fellow
Although the recent 2009 pH1N1 pandemic has increased interest in influenza research, public health infrastructure and preparedness, influenza surveillance, vaccine production capacity, and use of influenza vaccines in India, much more can and should be done. Unfortunately, vaccine use is still sporadic and infrequent, especially among those most at risk. Vaccine efficacy studies have shown that current pH1N1 vaccines are safe and effective in multiple Indian cohorts, but that seroprotection may be slightly lower (74.7% vs 82.1%) than in European/American cohorts. This may be due to viral factors, host genetics, environment, nutrition, or other factors. My main objective is to develop innovative immune profile signatures that explain and predict inter-individual variations in immune responses to influenza A/H1N1 vaccines specifically and viral vaccines generally. Another important goal is to compare and contrast immunologic and transcriptomic profiles following influenza vaccination in the Caucasian and Indian populations. The use of these two populations allows us to compare human subjects with pre-existing immunity due to natural infections vs. immunity due to vaccination. Knowledge regarding the mechanisms of influenza vaccine-mediated immunogenicity and protection will assist in developing the optimal vaccine products and immunization schedules relevant to the Indian populations most at risk. In addition to this I am also involved in the sero-survey of seasonal and pandemic H1N1 influenza virus outbreaks in Kerala. The critical need of population based serology has been advocated to determine the extent of infection and age specific infection rates. Wide geographical variations are expected in the incidence of infection in different populations. Therefore serosurvey is necessary to understand the extent of the infection and may provide appropriate denominator for pandemic severity estimates and the data for delineation of risk populations for priority in vaccination.