May 26, 2015

US researchers develop new vaccine against Asian bird-flu virus

American researchers are close to releasing vaccines against two new strains of the avian influenza most active in Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, and China.

The Kansas State University research group led by JurgenRicht says they have developed a vaccine for H5N1, a zoonotic pathogen that is transmitted from chickens to humans.

They have done it, according to him, by combining two viruses. A vaccine strain of the Newcastle disease virus, a virus that naturally affects poultry, was cloned and a small section of the Richt virus was transplanted into the Newcastle disease virus vaccine, creating a recombinant virus.

So far, Richtsays,the virus has infected more than 700 people worldwide and has killed about 60% of them. H5N1 has been most active in Indonesia, Egypt and other Southeast Asian and North African countries, and it has also has been documented in wild birds in the US, he adds.

Through the group's research, Kansas State University hopes to make vaccines for emerging strains of avian influenza more quickly to reduce the number and intensity of large-scale outbreaks at poultry farms as well as curb human transmission.

Richt says their work may also lead to new influenza vaccines for pigs, and novel vaccines for sheep and other livestock.

Their group, he says, is also working on a vaccinefor the avian flu subtype H7N9, an emerging zoonotic strain that has been circulating in China since 2013. China has reported about 650 cases in humans and Canada has reported two cases in people returning from China. About 230 people have died from H7N9.

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