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Vaccine provides 100 percent protection against avian flu virus in animal study

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 26 University of Pittsburgh researchers announced they have genetically engineered an avian flu vaccine from the critical components of the deadly H5N1 virus that completely protected mice and chickens from infection. Avian flu has devastated bird populations in Southeast Asia and Europe and so far has killed more than 80 people.

Because this vaccine contains a live virus, it may be more immune-activating than avian flu vaccines prepared by traditional methods, say the researchers. Furthermore, because it is grown in cells, it can be produced much more quickly than traditional vaccines, making it an extremely attractive candidate for preventing the spread of the virus in domestic livestock populations and, potentially, in humans, according to the study, published in the Feb 15 issue of the Journal of Virology and made available early online.

"The results of this animal trial are very promising, not only because our vaccine completely protected animals that otherwise would have died, but also because we found that one form of the vaccine stimulates several lines of immunity against H5N1," said Andrea Gambotto, M.D., assistant professor in the departments of surgery and molecular genetics and biochemistry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and lead author of the study.

Dr. Gambotto and his colleagues constructed the vaccine by genetically engineering a common cold virus, called adenovirus, to express either all or parts of an avian influenza protein called hemagglutinin (HA) on its surface. Found on the surface of all influenza viruses, HA allows the virus to attach to the cell that is being infected and is, therefore, critical to the influenza virus' ability to cause illness and death.

Since the late 1990s, a number of outbreaks of the avian influenza H5N1 in poultry have occurred in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. Outbreaks recently have been reported in Turkey and
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26-Jan-2006


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