Guidry News Service recently visited with Dr. Alan Barrett, director of the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, who is senior author of a recent paper on West Nile Virus. Listen (10:30)
“Over the last 10 or 11 years, since West Nile Virus came to Texas, a number of the UTMB groups have been leading research on West Nile Virus,” Dr. Barrett said. “Our studies have been following a collaboration with Harris County Mosquito Control District, looking at what happens to West Nile over time in Texas.”
Dr. Barrett said the focus of the research is whether the virus is changing over time. He used a recent epidemic in Dallas as an example.
“A major question to ask is ‘was the virus more virulent and had it changed,” he said. “And we recently published a paper which shows that the virus hasn’t changed significantly. It’s not more virulent; it’s the same virus.” Paper
But he said there are some other factors to take into consideration.
“There are some environmental changes, such as climate, which play a big role in where West Nile is going to hit,” Dr. Barrett said. “We’ve had very dry winters, as you know, (it gets) warm, and then you get rain and the mosquitoes come out; and you get lots of disease.”
He said that mice and hamsters are being used in research for a vaccine to prevent West Nile Virus.
“Most vaccines in use today are actually standardized by testing in animals before they are used in humans,” Dr. Barrett explained. “Although you do the clinical trial in humans, you use your animal data to substantiate the vaccine’s O.K. every time you make it.”
Dr. Barrett said it is a good time to be head of the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development.
“We have a very wide program here,” he said. “We collaborate with many different people, nationally and internationally, we do a number of vaccine testing for pharmaceutical companies; it’s an exciting time."
Dr. Barrett has been featured on YouTube videos: