EVMS physician-scientist garners grant to study polio vaccines

Story Date: Thu, 12 Jul 2012 09:41:00 EDT

An EVMS infectious disease specialist is receiving research support from a private foundation in her efforts to improve global health.

Stephanie B. Troy, MD, is one of 16 physician-scientists selected to receive the 2012 Clinical Scientist Development Award form the Doris Duke Foundation. The three-year award totals $484,000. Dr. Troy will use the funds to further her study of the possible risks of polio vaccines and methods to improve them.

"Although the current polio vaccines have succeeded in decreasing the number of global polio cases from 600,000 per year to only 650 cases in 2011, they have limitations that might make global polio eradication difficult," says Dr. Troy, who holds joint appointments in the Department of Internal Medicine and in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Cell Biology.

Edward C. Oldfield, MD, Professor and Chair of the Division of Infectious Disease, was thrilled by the Doris Duke Foundation decision. "This is very exciting news," he says. "This is a tribute to the quality of the research proposal and to the bright future in vaccine research for Dr. Troy."

Oral polio vaccine, a "live attenuated vaccine" used in most of the developing world, can mutate and cause polio outbreaks, Dr. Troy says. Inactivated polio vaccine, a killed vaccine used in most developed countries, provides inferior intestinal immunity and is too expensive for most developing countries to afford.

The Doris Duke Clinical Scientist Development award will fund a clinical trial investigating whether an injection into the skin rather than the muscle will improve vaccine effectiveness and allow for a reduced dose of inactivated polio vaccine in HIV-infected adults, who traditionally respond poorly to vaccines.

"If it is possible to reduce the dose of inactivated polio vaccine while maintaining or improving immunogenicity by giving it intradermally, this could make inactivated polio vaccine more affordable for developing countries," Dr. Troy says.

A Peace Corps volunteer for two years in Ghana, Dr. Troy developed her interests in global health during her infectious diseases fellowship at Stanford, where she conducted research in Zimbabwe and Mexico on oral polio vaccine.

Dr. Troy also has funding from the National Institutes of Health to finance the biological analysis of stool samples collected in Mexico to determine how long oral polio vaccine circulates and how it mutates after administration during a national immunization week.