Friday, May 29, 2009

Vaccine news for H1N1 & H5N1

Much of our attention is focused on H1N1 these days, but scientist and vaccine producers have not forgotten H5N1 as a potential pandemic virus. Reuters is reporting on new strains from Egypt being utilized:

"Scientists have used bird flu virus samples from Egypt to develop a new basis for a vaccine against the toxic H5N1 strain that continues to circulate, the World Health Organisation said on Thursday.

Avian influenza kills about half the people it infects, but unlike the quickly circulating H1N1 flu virus has not been shown to pass easily between humans to date.

The WHO said the candidate virus was developed at the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta "thanks to the ministry of health and population of Egypt, for providing virus specimens,"

"This recombinant vaccine virus is available for distribution," it said in a statement on its website.

"Institutions, companies and others interested in pandemic vaccine development who wish to receive these candidate vaccine viruses should contact either the WHO Global Influenza Programme ... or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

Pharmaceutical companies including Novartis are already working on vaccines against H5N1 bird flu, which has killed or forced the culling of more than 300 million birds since 2003 as it spread to 61 countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa."

Meanwhile, the Sanofi Pasteur Institute, a leading manufacturer of influenza vaccine announced they had recieved the seed virus for H1N1 vaccine production. According to their press release:

"Receipt of the seed virus means that Sanofi Pasteur will begin the development process, called
passaging”, that will yield a “working seed.” Passaging is the process for acclimating virus to grow in a production environment at optimum yield. The passaging process is expected to take approximately two weeks. Following quality controls, Sanofi Pasteur will be prepared to begin industrial production as soon as directed by public health agencies."

WHO has said they will make decisions about vaccine production this summer.

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