Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston are preparing for the potential worldwide spread of a new avian flu strain (H7N9) that caused severe disease in China last spring. UTMB’s Sealy Center for Vaccine Development is teaming up with Baylor College of Medicine to join researchers from seven other Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units funded by the National Institutes of Health to test vaccines to protect against the illness in adults.

According to the World Health Organization, the H7N9 influenza strain was found only in birds until last spring when it was detected in 135 people in China, most of whom had contact with poultry. Most people had severe respiratory infections, and 44 people — or 32 percent of those who were ill — died. While the average age of those stricken with the H7N9 flu was 58, four cases were confirmed in children.

There have been a few cases of person-to-person transmission of H7N9, mainly between family members.

Typically, vaccines are the first line of defense against influenza.

This round of research will recruit up to 1,000 adults nationally, 19- to 64-years-old and in good health. Study participants will receive different dosages of an investigational vaccine given with and without one of two adjuvants, which are substances added to a vaccine to increase the body’s immune response. The main goal is to learn about the ability of this investigational vaccine to trigger an immune response, which is needed for the vaccine to be considered protective against the flu.

For more information or to volunteer for a vaccine clinical trial, call 409-772-5278, email or visit