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Saint Louis University findings: Don't pitch stockpiled avian flu vaccine
Date:2/9/2011

ST. LOUIS -- A stockpiled vaccine designed to fight a strain of avian flu that circulated in 2004 can be combined with a vaccine that matches the current strain of bird flu to protect against a potential pandemic, researchers from Saint Louis University's Center for Vaccine Development have found.

The findings suggest public health officials can get a jump on fighting a pandemic caused by avian flu virus because they won't have to wait for a vaccine that exactly matches the current strain of bird flu to be manufactured. They can begin immunizing against the bird flu by giving an injection of a vaccine made from a related, yet mismatched strain of flu to prime the body for a second shot of a vaccine that matches the current strain.

"A cornerstone of pandemic planning is the development of effective vaccines against avian influenza infection," said Robert Belshe, M.D., director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Saint Louis University and the lead author of the paper.

"The results of the present study confirm the usefulness of vaccination with an H5 strain that isn't the current dominant strain."

Avian flu -- or H5N1 -- is a highly infectious and deadly virus that circulates in birds and has the potential to genetically mutate and jump between species to infect humans. Because people lack immunity to the virus, public health officials are concerned that the virus can spread quickly to become a pandemic outbreak.

In anticipation of a bird flu pandemic, in 2004 the U.S. government stockpiled 20 million doses of vaccine against the "Vietnam" strain of avian influenza, which then was the dominant strain of the virus. But the avian flu changes quickly and since then, a different strain of bird flu, known as the "Indonesia" strain, has replaced the Vietnam strain as the prominent circulating avian flu.

Researchers studied both the vaccine against the Vietnam strain and an investigational vaccine designed to p
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Contact: Nancy Solomon
solomonn@slu.edu
314-977-8017
Saint Louis University
Source:Eurekalert

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