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

Romania. To date, H5N1 has caused the most large-scale and widespread bird deaths in known history--an estimated 150 to 200 million birds have either died in the outbreaks or been killed as part of infection control actions in the last eight years.

The H5N1 virus does not usually infect humans. However, in 1997, the first case of spread from a bird to a human occurred in Hong Kong during an outbreak of bird flu in poultry. The virus caused severe respiratory illness in 18 people, six of whom died. Since that time, more than 170 cases of known H5N1 infection have occurred among humans worldwide, approximately half of whom died.

Based on the published sequence of the Vietnam strain of the H5N1 avian influenza virus, members of the University of Pittsburgh Vector Core Facility, led by Wentao Gao, Ph.D., research instructor in the School of Medicine's department of surgery, constructed several adenovirus "vectors"--viruses that have been modified to serve as a vector, or delivery vehicle, for foreign genes or DNA--containing either the full genetic sequence of the HA protein or sequences for only parts, or subunits, of HA. They also constructed a vector containing sequences for a portion of the HA protein from the H5N1 Hong Kong strain.

Collaborating with investigators Xiuhua Lu, Ph.D., Doan C. Nguyen, M.D., Yumi Matsuoka, Ph.D., Ruben O. Donis, Ph.D., and Jaquelin M. Katz, Ph.D., of the Influenza Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Gambotto's team tested the ability of their slightly different vaccines to protect mice from infection by wild-type H5N1 by comparing its performance to an adenovirus vector containing no H5N1 genes, or an "empty vector." The investigators then observed the H5NI-exposed mice for any signs of illness, including weight loss and death, and also checked their blood for anti-viral antibodies and other markers of H5N1-specific immunity.

All of the mice immunized with the empty vector vaccin
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26-Jan-2006


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