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SLU vaccine researcher works to get ahead of future epidemics

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Ellen Hutti
/
St. Louis University
Dr. Sarah Georgeis the principal investigator for SLU's Chikungunya vaccine clinical trial.

Coronavirus case counts are dropping in the St. Louis region and across the U.S., but Dr. Sarah George of St. Louis University is not taking a break anytime soon.

As the principal investigator for St. Louis University Center for Vaccine Development, George works to develop vaccines for a host of contagious diseases. Right now, she has her sights on Chikungunya virus, which is found in at least 50 countries in the tropics. Hundreds of thousands of cases were reported throughout the Americas and Africa in 2015.

“It is a very nasty mosquito-transmitted disease,” she told St. Louis on the Air. “We do not yet have this virus in St. Louis. Hopefully, we'll never get it here.”

The center is currently seeking participants for a six-month clinical trial for a Chikungunya vaccine.

Dr. Sarah George joins St. Louis on the Air

George joined Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air to discuss future vaccine development and to answer listener questions about the coronavirus — a disease George suspects will be with us for some time.

“This virus will continue to circulate to some extent,” she said, adding that a universal coronavirus vaccine would go a long way toward protecting us against future variants. “These variants are popping up on us, and they’re on us pretty quickly when they happen.”

She also shared thoughts on what the coronavirus pandemic has taught us about how to prepare for future outbreaks and epidemics. George said another influenza outbreak is not a matter of “if” but “when.”

“We usually have a new flu pandemic every 10 to 15 years,” she said. “The last one was in 2009. That means we're due for a new one probably anytime in the next five to 10 years.”

To learn more about vaccine research being conducted at the St. Louis University Center for Vaccine Development, or to volunteer for a trial, call 314-977-6333 or email vaccine@slu.edu.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Kayla Drake. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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