Roundup: Trial Underway for First-Ever 'Universal' Flu Vaccine; Only 7% of U.S. Adults have Ideal Cardio-Metabolic Health; and More

U.S. Scientists Start Trial to Test Potentially First ‘Universal Flu Vaccine’

A universal flu vaccine that can fight all seasonal strains of influenza has long been an elusive goal of the medical community. Now, U.S. scientists are initiating a clinical trial to test exactly such a vaccine. 

The U.S. National Institutes of Health said it has begun a phase 1 clinical trial of a “potential universal flu vaccine.” The NIH is inoculating healthy adult volunteers at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The placebo-controlled trial will “test the safety of a candidate vaccine, BPL-1357, and its ability to prompt immune responses,” the NIH said.

 The single-site trial can enroll up to 100 people aged 18 to 55 years. The vaccine candidate was developed by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH.

“Influenza vaccines that can provide long-lasting protection against a wide range of seasonal influenza viruses, as well as those with pandemic potential, would be invaluable public health tools,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., in a news release. “The scientific community is making progress on this pressing global health priority. The BPL-1357 candidate influenza vaccine being tested in this clinical trial performed very well in pre-clinical studies and we look forward to learning how it performs in people.”

The study’s duration for each participant is expected to run about seven months. In addition to the two clinic visits to receive vaccine (or placebo), volunteers will be asked to return to the clinic seven times to provide blood and nasal mucosal samples that will be used by the investigators to detect and characterize immune responses, the NIH states.

New Study: Only 7% of U.S. Adults have Ideal Heart, Metabolic Health

Optimal cardiovascular health is alarmingly rare in the U.S, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Researchers concluded that fewer than 7 percent of U.S. adults meet the healthiest standards of five major areas related to heart and metabolic health: weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease status.

These five categories define ideal cardiovascular health, according to the American Heart Association. The purpose of this study was to investigate U.S. trends in optimal cardiometabolic health from 1999 to 2018, the study states.

Researchers reviewed National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data from more than 55,000 people over age 20. Most adults have at least one cardio-metabolic risk factor. Those risk factors being overweight and having had a past heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. 

In both the categories of blood sugar and being overweight, rates surged significantly higher over the 20-year period that was covered. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that nearly half of Americans are obese and over 70 percent are overweight. Heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S.

The study concludes: “Between 1999 and 2000 and 2017 and 2018, U.S. cardiometabolic health has been poor and worsening, with only 6.8 percent of adults having optimal cardiometabolic health, and disparities by age, sex, education, and race/ethnicity. These novel findings inform the need for nationwide clinical and public health interventions to improve cardiometabolic health and health equity.”

COVID-19 Patients at Higher Risk of Developing Neurodegenerative Disorders, Danish Study Finds

New research indicates that COVID-19 may increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Danish researcher presented their study at the European Academy of Neurology (EAN) Congress in Vienna, and the results were published in Frontiers in Neurology.

After reviewing certain data from health records in Denmark, researchers found that some study participants had a 3.5 times increased risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, 2.6 times higher risk of Parkinson’s disease, 2.7 times higher risk of ischemic stroke and 4.8 times higher risk of intracerebral hemorrhage.

The study analyzed 919,731 people who tested positive for COVID-19. The study’s authors notes that inflammation likely increased the development of neurodegenerative disorders. The patients evaluated were treated as either outpatients or hospitalized patients in Denmark between February 2020 and November 2021.

Researchers emphasize that the increased risk of these neurological diseases was no higher in COVID-19 positive patients than in people who had been diagnosed with influenza or other respiratory illnesses. COVID-19 patients did carry a 1.7 times higher risk of ischemic stroke, compared to influenza and bacterial pneumonia inpatients more than 80 years of age.

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