Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh will use a $3.6 million National Institutes of Health grant to test a vaccine for the H5N1 avian flu virus. That strain has been spreading around the globe and has most recently been found in Europe. Lead investigator Dr. Ted Ross says unlike other avian flu vaccines, which are partially developed from live viruses, the vaccine being developed in Pittsburgh is based on a “virus-like particle” that lacks genetic information to reproduce. That potentially makes it safer. The vaccine has been tested in mice but will now be tested in non-human primates. The team will study the vaccine for three years and another five-year trail in humans would be needed before the vaccine could be used outside of testing. Ross says if the vaccine works it could be easily modified to fit whatever new strain may be bouncing around the globe at the time. He says it starts to provide protection in a week meaning it could be given to people living in an area already suffering from an outbreak.