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Drug Firms Competing to Produce Cheap and Effective bird flu vaccine

With GlaxoSmithKline claiming to be able to produce far more doses of bird flu vaccine than its rivals the battle ground has been set to to create a cheap// but effective human bird flu vaccine.

GSK is hoping to produce large quantities of the vaccine to challenge the H5N1 bird flu by next year following encouraging results in trials. Although most products are still in development many companies are already vying with each other to interest governments in their products. GSK's rivals Baxter and Chiron have already supplied Britain with 3.5m doses in £33m contracts, to protect health and other frontline workers in the event of a pandemic.

According to GSK it will use lower doses of active ingredient in the vaccine because it has a better adjuvant.

GSK is using an inactivated strain of H5N1 that was isolated in Indonesia last year. Companies are using the H5N1 strains that have been found over the last three years in south Asia. That is where the greatest threat exists, of avian flu in birds, changing to avian flu in humans followed by new pandemic strains.

10 countries have reported a total of 232 cases of confirmed avian flu so far with 134 people dying.

Indonesia, has reported 42 deaths of 54 who were infected with the disease. Fears exist of the virus mutating as the disease spreads within families or close-knit communities. Although it is still not certain that any vaccine would be effective against H5N1 in humans against new pandemic strains it is expected to provide some immunity.

Nevertheless, this new generation of vaccines is better than the antivirals, large amounts of which are already used against traditional flu and are being stockpiled round the world as emergency treatments for symptoms of avian and pandemic flu too. A combination of all these would help to buy more time to develop vaccines against any pandemic strain, but this could probably take months. For now the government has placed '
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