Advisory: Nasal Spray Influenza Vaccine

May 20, 1998

Hunein F. Maassab, the University of Michigan researcher who developed the nasal spray influenza vaccine now under study by the vaccine manufacturer, said that recent reports of the vaccine's protection against otitis media carry even more good news for children.

Otitis media, an ear infection common in children, can be an extremely painful illness for children. It is also associated with fever, irritability, sleep disturbances, anorexia and vomiting. Clinical trials funded by the vaccine manufacturer, Aviron, recently determined that Maassab's nasal spray vaccine provided a 30 percent protection against otitis media. In July 1997, Massaab announced to the world that the vaccine had proven to be 93 percent effective in a major study of 1,600 children across the country.

"This is really remarkable," Maassab said. "The prevention of febrile otitis media associated with influenza was a clear benefit of vaccination with 30 percent fewer cases of febrile otitis media among vaccine recipients than among placebo recipients. The widespread use of this influenza vaccine significantly reduces the frequency not only of febrile otitis media, but also in the anitbiotic use during influenza outbreaks."

The nasal spray vaccine is a fine mist that will be marketed by Aviron as FluMist. It may be available to the public by the summer of 1999. The vaccine has proven to be genetically stable and acceptable because it's administered through a natural root via nasal passages. Maassab said that the vaccine is also adaptable to other influenza viruses.

"We have the methodology to constantly update the vaccine whenever new outbreaks have been identified,'' Maassab said.

Maassab is a professor of epidemiology at the U-M School of Public Health, one of the foremost public health research institutions in the country.

Maassab, who was a research assistant of Dr. Thomas Francis Jr., founder of the Epidemiology Department, received his Ph.D. from the School of Public Health in 1956. Just four years later, he isolated the Influenza Type A-Ann Arbor virus and by 1967 had developed a cold-adapted virus that bred well in cooler nasal passages and did not mutate to more dangerous forms. From 1973 to the present, in collaboration with NIAID and more recently with Aviron, Maassab has been refining the vaccine and proving that it is not virulent to humans.

He is currently in the Phase 1 trial of a cold-adapted respiratory syncytial virus vaccine, a viral pathogen that produces bronchitis in infants and children and is responsible for high morbidity rates in infants. Maassab is also in the process of developing a vaccine to tackle types one, two and three of the parainfluenza virus.

"These are the most important respiratory pathogens in humans which always generate outbreaks continuously throughout the winter months,'' Maassab said.

If you would like to talk with Maassab about his research, contact Amy Reyes at News & Information Services at (734) 647-4411 or via E-mail at

University of Michigan

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