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Bacteria seek to topple the egg as top flu vaccine tool
Date:12/6/2010

Only the fragile chicken egg stands between Americans and a flu pandemic that would claim tens of thousands more lives than are usually lost to the flu each year.

Vaccine production hinges on the availability of hundreds of millions of eggs and even with the vaccine, flu still claims somewhere around 36,000 lives in the United States during a typical year. Now scientists have taken an important step toward ending the dominance of the oval. In a paper published in the Dec. 6 issue of the journal Vaccine, scientists showed that an experimental flu vaccine grown entirely in bacteria a process that bypasses the egg completely works well in people, triggering an immune response that would protect them against the flu.

The study of 128 healthy people ages 18 to 49 at the University of Rochester Medical Center was led by John Treanor, M.D., an expert on flu vaccines who has helped lead efforts to create and test new ways to make flu vaccine more quickly and less expensively. The vaccine which is free of bacteria itself is made by New Jersey-based VaxInnate Inc., which funded the study.

"There are a number of problems with using eggs to produce flu vaccine," said Treanor. "It's a very specialized product. It's hard to make more eggs in a hurry you only get them as fast as hens lay them. They're not easy to manipulate, and it can be challenging to get the flu virus to grow within an egg. The flu vaccine system would be more flexible and reliable if we didn't have to rely on them."

Scientists have been exploring a number of alternatives to eggs creating doses to cover just the U.S. population requires millions of eggs that, if laid end to end, would just about encircle the continental United States.

Bacteria have not been high on the list of options, even though they have the capability of producing vaccine more quickly and less expensively than many other methods. Most efforts to use bacteria have faltered due t
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Contact: Tom Rickey
tom_rickey@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-7954
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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