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Vaccine Made from Live bird flu virus vaccine Offers Protection to Animals

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Maryland-based MedImmune Inc has engineered a live but weakened virus that is delivered as a nasal spray instead of injected by needle.

Researchers from MedImmune worked with teams at the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make a live H5N1 vaccine. The teams were led by Dr. Kanta Subbarao of NIAID using three different strains of H5N1 dating back to when the dangerous form first emerged in Hong Kong in 1997.

The researchers reported that mice that got a single dose of vaccine, given in a nose spray, all survived normally lethal doses of H5N1. It was found that mice and ferrets given two doses of vaccine were not only protected but that their bodies also suppressed the virus.

The team artificially constructed their viruses using weakened flu strains and added key proteins from H5N1 strains that infected people in 1997,2003 and 2004.

Even more amazing was the usual low-tech approach to produce this vaccine, growing it in chicken eggs, that is in the same way that seasonal flu vaccine is produced.

MedImmune said in June it was already testing one of the vaccines in human volunteers, in what is known as a Phase I safety trial.

The researchers noted it is not possible to predict which strain of H5N1 or any other influenza virus might cause a pandemic. There are hundreds of different possible combinations of hemagglutinin (the "H" in a flu strain's name) and neuraminidase (the "N").

The researchers wrote, "If the vaccine candidates described in this paper elicit a broadly cross-reactive protective immune response in humans, they would support the approach of developing one or two pandemic vaccine candidates for each subtype (H4 through H16) …."


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