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Pittsburgh Scientists Create New Vaccine

by 5m Editor
6 February 2008, at 11:13am

PITTSBURGH, US – Recent outbreaks of avian influenza around the world have prompted health officials to warn of its continued threat to global health and potential to trigger an influenza pandemic.

In a study published by the Public Library of Science in the Jan. 30 issue of PLoS ONE, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Vaccine Research and Novavax, Inc. report they have engineered a vaccine against the most common and deadliest strain of avian influenza, H5N1. The vaccine produced a strong immune response in mice and protected them from death following infection with H5N1 virus. The vaccine is currently being tested in humans in an early-phase clinical trial.


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"To stem the spread of a potential pandemic, we need vaccines that create robust and cross-protective immunity"
Ted M. Ross, Ph.D., lead author of the study and assistant professor, Center for Vaccine Research, University of Pittsburgh.

“While worldwide avian influenza control efforts have been mostly successful, avian influenza, like seasonal influenza, continues to mutate creating new variants or strains that could easily and quickly spread among humans,” said Ted M. Ross, Ph.D., lead author of the study and assistant professor, Center for Vaccine Research, University of Pittsburgh. “To stem the spread of a potential pandemic, we need vaccines that create robust and cross-protective immunity and that can be stockpiled to be readily available to enhance the immune system’s response against new strains.”

Influenza pandemics have occurred three times throughout modern history. The first, the Spanish Flu of 1918, caused more deaths than World War I. According to Dr. Ross, a future influenza pandemic is inevitable because of its continually mutating nature and lack of broad immunity in humans.

Unlike other avian influenza vaccines, which are partially developed from live viruses, this vaccine uses a virus-like particle, or VLP, that is recognized by the immune system as a real virus but lacks genetic information to reproduce, making it a safe alternative for a human vaccine. Given the continually evolving nature of H5N1 viruses, the vaccine was engineered to encode genes for three influenza viral proteins to offer enhanced protection against possible new strains of the virus.

To test the vaccine, researchers administered it to mice in one-dose and two-dose regimens. Mice immunized twice with the vaccine developed protective antibodies against H5N1 and were protected from disease and death when directly exposed to the virus. The researchers also compared modes of vaccine administration by delivering the vaccine to the

muscle or the nose. Methods of vaccine administration were equally effective, however, mice injected with the vaccine into the muscle developed more antibodies in the blood, while mice that received the nasal administration of the vaccine, had more antibodies in their lungs.

“VLPs offer advantages over other vaccine strategies because they are easy to develop, produce and manufacture,” said Dr. Ross. “Using recombinant technologies, within ten weeks, we could generate the vaccine most effective towards the current circulating strain of virus, making it a cost-effective counter-measure to the threat of an avian influenza pandemic.”

The vaccine was developed by Novavax, Inc, Rockville, Md. and evaluated in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is currently being tested in a phase 1/2a clinical trial.

Further Reading

- You can view the PLoSone article by clicking here.

5m Editor