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News

Safer flu vaccine in cold conditions

Society For General Microbiology : 07 April, 2003  (New Product)
Using cold temperatures could help make quicker, cheaper and safer influenza vaccines, according to Dr Alison Whiteley at the Society for General Microbiology's Annual Meeting in Edinburg.
Using cold temperatures could help make quicker, cheaper and safer influenza vaccines, according to Dr Alison Whiteley at the Society for General Microbiology's Annual Meeting in Edinburg.

Influenza epidemics sweep the world every year killing the very young and the very old, but every thirty years or so a new virulent strain appears which kills people from every age group. These super-dangerous strains develop from viruses which normally infect birds, and the vaccines need to be made very quickly under hazardous conditions.

Now researchers from Reading University are using a new technique to make vaccines from de-activated viruses in a safer way, by altering conventional vaccine viruses so they can only operate at cold temperatures.

'Usually the people developing vaccines are putting themselves at risk as they make the medicines, especially when trying to make a vaccine in large enough quantities to prevent a world-wide influenza pandemic,' says Dr Alison Whiteley from Reading University. 'The work has to be done carefully in a specially contained laboratory, which makes it time consuming and expensive.'

The scientists have developed a way of adding the virulent bird genes to vaccines, then propose to grow large quantities of the vaccine in cells to produce the amount needed at very low temperatures.

'The new strains we are developing will not be able to grow at normal body temperatures in people or in birds, so they will be safer to use as they cannot infect anyone. But they should still provide protection from real influenza attacks,' says Dr Whiteley. 'This means that when a potential pandemic virus appears, we should be able to make huge quantities of effective vaccine much more quickly and safely.
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