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Home Industry News New hope for pandemic flu vaccine

New hope for pandemic flu vaccine

3rd February 2006

Researchers in the United States have genetically engineered a vaccine that prevents mice from contracting various strains of the H5N1 influenza virus.

Scientists investigating ways of combating the potentially deadly bird flu virus claim to have made a major breakthrough.

Writing in the latest issue of medical journal The Lancet, the team from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, and Purdue University in Indiana report that it would take at least six months and around four billion fertilised eggs to produce a conventional egg-derived vaccine for the 1.2 billion people worldwide considered at high risk from the disease.

With the avian influenza virus spreading across Asia and into Europe, medical experts are becoming increasingly concerned about the possibility of a global pandemic. If the virus mutates and becomes transmittable between humans, it could kill millions of people.

In response to the growing global public-health priority, the scientists, led by Suryaprakash Sambhara from the Centres for Disease Control and Suresh Mittal from Purdue University, looked at alternative vaccine-manufacturing strategies and genetically engineered a common cold virus to produce a protein called haemugglutinin subtype 5 (H5HA), a component of the H5N1 influenza virus.

The team injected one group of mice with the H5HA vaccine and another with saline and found that the immunised mice were protected from death and weight loss when infected with bird flu viruses. They also discovered that the genetically engineered vaccine generated specific T cells (a type of white blood cell) that helped clear the virus.

Dr Sambhara and Professor Mittal concluded: “This approach is a feasible vaccine strategy against existing and newly emerging viruses of highly pathogenic avian influenza to prepare against a potential pandemic.

“This approach also provides a viable option for potential vaccine stockpiling for the influenza pandemic.”

Three people, believed to have had contact with a bird infected with avian influenza, have been taken to hospital in Hong Kong this week for observation and tests. The latest outbreak could mark the first human cases of bird flu in Hong Kong since 1997.

More than 70 people have died in south-east Asia from the human strain of the virus since late 2003.

track© Adfero Ltd

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