New avian flu vaccine tests well in mice

Jan. 30, 2008 at 3:06 PM
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PITTSBURGH, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- A vaccine against the most common and deadliest strain of avian flu, H5N1, has been engineered and tested by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh.

The vaccine, engineered and tested by University of Pittsburgh's Center for Vaccine Research and Novavax Inc., created strong immune response in mice and protected them from death following infection with the H5N1 virus, the study published by PLoS ONE reported.

Lead author Ted M. Ross said the vaccine is being tested in humans in an early-phase clinical trial.

A future flu pandemic is inevitable because of the virus's ability to continually reinvent itself and the lack of broad immunity in humans, Ross said.

Unlike other avian flu vaccines, which are partially developed from live viruses, this vaccine uses a virus-like particle, or VLP, that is recognized by the immune system as a real virus but lacks genetic information to reproduce, making it a potentially safer alternative for a human vaccine, Ross explained.

"VLPs may be advantageous over other vaccine strategies because they are easy to develop, produce and manufacture," Ross said in a a statement. "Using recombinant technologies, within 10 weeks, we could generate a vaccine most effective towards the current circulating strain of virus."

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