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News

Asian bird 'flu vaccine now safe enough to use, but can we make it?

Society For General Microbiology : 06 April, 2005  (Company News)
Scientists have managed to manipulate the deadly Asian bird 'flu virus to make it safe enough to use in the laboratory, giving us hope of an effective vaccine, according to research to be presented at the Society for General Microbiology's 156th Meeting at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. Increasing numbers of fatal bird influenza cases in humans during the last nine years in South-east Asia have raised international fears of another global 'flu pandemic. The virus has already killed three-quarters of the people infected, but if the strains known as H5N1 gain the ability to jump from person to person the effects will be devastating according to experts.
Scientists have managed to manipulate the deadly Asian bird 'flu virus to make it safe enough to use in the laboratory, giving us hope of an effective vaccine, according to research to be presented at the Society for General Microbiology's 156th Meeting at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.

Increasing numbers of fatal bird influenza cases in humans during the last nine years in South-east Asia have raised international fears of another global 'flu pandemic. The virus has already killed three-quarters of the people infected, but if the strains known as H5N1 gain the ability to jump from person to person the effects will be devastating according to experts.

The World Health Organization asked public laboratories in 2004 to try to design an effective vaccine, but until now the strain and its derivatives have been considered too dangerous to work with, or release to vaccine manufacturers.

'Recent technological advances in reverse genetics have allowed us to manipulate the H5N1 influenza virus first isolated in Vietnam, so that we were able to remove some of the features which make it so dangerous,' says Dr John Wood of the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, based at South Mimms, Hertfordshire. 'The safe, modified virus has now been distributed to vaccine manufacturers.'

The next step is for manufacturers to develop experimental H5N1 vaccines for clinical assessment, as information so far suggests that the immunisation strategies will need to be different from previous and current potential pandemic vaccines, if proper protection is going to be stimulated in people.

The new technologies developed by the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control experts will be used in future to improve conventional seasonal influenza vaccines.
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