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ETSU researchers studying vaccine failure in HIV-infected population

Contributed • Updated Mar 1, 2019 at 4:09 PM

Researchers at East Tennessee State University’s Quillen College of Medicine are exploring ways to improve vaccine effectiveness in immunocompromised individuals, such as HIV-infected patients.

Drs. Jonathan Moorman and Zhi Qiang (John) Yao, professors of internal medicine in ETSU’s Quillen College of Medicine, will lead the research on an R15-awarded project from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The award is in the amount of $434,108.

Moorman and Yao have noted poor response to vaccines among immunocompromised individuals in prior research. This poor response was even observed in patients who follow antiretroviral treatment and have undetectable levels of HIV.

“Our aim is to develop approaches to improve vaccine efficacy in these immunocompromised individuals,” Moorman said.

The researchers are studying Hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccine failure in patients with HIV.

In addition, this research could also have implications for increasing the effectiveness of influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations in HIV and other immunocompromised patients, including the elderly.

“This study will provide a working model to explore mechanisms that could be fundamental in the diminishing immune (vaccine) responses observed in HIV infection and other chronic infectious diseases,” Yao said. “This is critical for developing approaches to improve vaccine effectiveness in individuals with HIV.”

The research could also extend to other immunocompromising conditions, such as Hepatitis C virus, hemodialysis, immunosuppression, transplantation and malignancy, in general.

Moorman serves as vice chairman of Research and Scholarship at Quillen. He is co-director of the Center of Excellence in Inflammation, Infectious Disease, and Immunity. Yao serves as the director of the Center of Excellence for HIV/AIDS. In addition, both physician-scientists provide infectious disease care at the Mountain Home VA Healthcare System. This is their sixth concurrent, active grant.


The research will examine:

· Hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccine response in HIV-infected individuals

· Effectiveness of other vaccines, such as flu and pneumonia vaccines, in HIV patients

· Vaccine effectiveness in patients with other types of chronic illness

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