A commercially developed vaccine has successfully protected mice and ferrets against a highly lethal avian influenza virus. The vaccine was developed by Vical Incorporated in San Diego, California.
This finding of Vical, coupled with results of previous studies that showed protection against multiple human influenza strains, suggests that such a vaccine would protect humans against multiple variants of the bird and human influenza viruses.
In the St. Jude study, the full, three-component vaccine (H5, NP and M2) provided complete protection in mice against lethal challenges with a highly virulent (Vietnam/1203/2004) H5N1 avian influenza virus.
Moreover, other studies showed that a smaller version of the vaccine containing only the NP and M2 components provided significant protection against several strains of human influenza virus as well as the H5N1 “bird flu” strain.
In the study all mice and ferrets that received the DNA vaccine survived the challenge with the virulent H5N1 strain, while those that received a “blank” vaccine control did not survive.
The vaccine also prevented weight loss in all animals challenged with the virulent virus, suggesting that the vaccine might also protect humans against serious flu-related sickness.