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UW scientists report a new method to speed bird flu vaccine production

In the event of an influenza pandemic, the world's vaccine manufacturers will be in a race against time to forestall calamity. But now, thanks to a new technique to more efficiently produce the disarmed viruses that are the seed stock for making flu vaccine in large quantities, life-saving inoculations may be available more readily than before. The work is especially important as governments worldwide prepare for a predicted pandemic of avian influenza.

Writing this week (Oct. 31, 2005) in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (PNAS), a team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Tokyo report a new way to generate genetically altered influenza virus. The lab-made virus - whose genes are manipulated to disarm its virulent nature - can be seeded into chicken eggs to generate the vaccine used in inoculations, which prepare the human immune system to recognize and defeat the wild viruses that spread among humans in an epidemic or pandemic.

In their report, a team led by UW-Madison virologists Yoshihiro Kawaoka and Gabriele Neumann, describes an improved "reverse genetics" technique that makes it easier to make a seed virus in monkey kidney cells, which, like tiny factories, churn out millions of copies of the disarmed virus to be used to make vaccines.

In nature, viruses commandeer a cell's reproductive machinery to make new virus particles, which go on to infect other cells and make yet more virus particles. Vaccine makers use a monkey kidney cell line to make non-virulent viruses that serve as the raw material for vaccines.The technique reported by the Wisconsin team improves upon a previous reverse genetics method (developed by Kawaoka's group in 1999) by significantly reducing the number of plasmid vectors required to ferry viral genes into the monkey kidney cells used to produce the virus particles to make vaccines."Compared to other types of cells, which are not a
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Source:University of Wisconsin-Madison


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