Human trials for bird flu vaccine
The first human trial of a DNA vaccine designed to
prevent H5N1 avian influenza infection began late last month, when the vaccine
was administered to the first volunteer at the National Institutes of Health
(NIH) Clinical Center in Maryland in the US.
The study will involve 45 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 60. Fifteen
will receive placebo injections and 30 will receive three injections of the
trial vaccine over 2 months and will be followed for 1 year. NIAID researchers
will measure immune responses to the vaccine, assess its safety, and compare its
potency to more traditional vaccine approaches.
DNA-based vaccines contain only portions of the influenza virus' genetic
material, unlike conventional flu vaccines, which are developed by growing the
influenza virus in hens' eggs and then weakened or killed before being
administered as a vaccine. The DNA vaccine works by instructing human cells to
make proteins that act as a vaccine against the virus.
VRC Director Gary Nabel and his colleagues previously have shown the DNA
vaccine approach to be effective against influenza viruses in animal models,
including highly pathogenic viruses such as the H5N1 avian
strain and the H1N1 virus that caused the deadly 1918
"An effective H5N1 influenza vaccine would provide a potentially
life-saving advance against a global health threat," notes NIAID Director
Anthony Fauci. "More broadly, development of this DNA vaccine technology has the
potential to improve our production capacity for vaccines to prevent seasonal
influenza and other diseases."
"This vaccine is aimed at newer strains of the H5N1 virus that currently
pose a threat in Indonesia and represents an example of our ability to respond
to shifting viruses with modern technology," says Dr Nabel.
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