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Discovery May Boost Bird Flu Vaccine Potency

Compound increases ability of 'killer T-cells' to get rid of infection, study says

THURSDAY, March 5 (HealthDay News) -- Boosting T-cell immunity may be one way to improve existing vaccines so that they can protect people during a bird flu pandemic, says an Australian study.

"The 'killer T-cell' is the hit-man of the immune system. It is able to locate and destroy virus-infected cells in our body, helping rid us of infections," the study's lead author, Stephen Turner, from the microbiology and immunology department at the University of Melbourne, said in a university news release.

"Unfortunately, current influenza vaccines are poor at inducing killer T-cell immunity," he said. "Therefore, we wanted to see if we could improve the current vaccine formulation to induce killer T-cells after vaccination."

Turner and his fellow researchers added a compound known to increase immunity to a flu vaccine.

"The addition of this compound promoted significant generation of potent killer T- cell immunity and provided protection from infection," he said. "The significance of these findings is that, rather than having to design a new vaccine altogether, we can improve current flu vaccines by adding this potent immune modulator."

The study was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"With appropriate clinical testing, we could see improvements to current vaccines within the next five years," Turner said.

More information

The World Health Organization has more about bird flu.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Melbourne, news release, March 2, 2009

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