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New Bird Flu Vaccine Shows Promise
Date:6/11/2008

Whole-virus version safe, effective and can be made quickly, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, June 11 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have succeeded in developing a whole-virus bird flu vaccine that appears to be safe, more effective than the one currently approved for human use and also able to be manufactured much more quickly than conventional vaccines.

Three-quarters of volunteers produced antibodies against the virus after receiving a second dose of the vaccine, CELVAPAN, made by Baxter, compared with only 45 percent in the currently approved vaccine.

Importantly, the study confirms the feasibility of using new, cell culture-derived vaccine.

"The fact that they were able to do this, and very efficiently, and get such good antibody response reinforces and reconfirms that, even for the annual flu virus, we need to move away from embryonated hens' eggs [the current method for producing vaccines] and move to cell cultures," said Dr. Pascal James Imperato, dean of the graduate program in public health at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center in New York City and a former New York city health commissioner.

"We don't know if [the bird flu] ever really did become a pandemic [what protection this would afford]," Imperato added. "But this gives us some reassurance that there would at least be a mechanism to rapidly produce this vaccine."

"CELVAPAN is unique in that it provides protection among several bird flu virus strains, can be produced in about less than half the time of traditional methods and does not require an additive to boost an immune response," said study author Dr. Hartmut J. Ehrlich, vice president of Baxter Global Research & Development, in Vienna.

"Baxter has submitted for licensure with the EMEA [European Medicines Agency] and has two programs with the U.S. government for flu vaccine development for the U.S. market," Ehrlich said. "Additionally, Ba
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