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Researchers Ready Bird Flu Vaccines for Potential Pandemic

Researchers Ready Bird Flu Vaccines for Potential Pandemic | Credits: Getty Images

United States: In the recent onset of avian flu transmission from animals to humans in the current avian flu outbreak within the United States, medical specialists express apprehension regarding the potential adaptation of the virus for human-to-human transmission.

To date, there exists no substantiating evidence; nevertheless, a fresh inquiry delves into the ongoing development of vaccines to shield us in case such a transition occurs.

A surplus of several hundred thousand doses remains stockpiled from previous trials.

However, uncertainties linger regarding their efficacy against the latest avian flu strains and the swiftness with which production efforts could be escalated, according to Science Alert.

Virologists Flavio Faccin and Daniel Perez, hailing from the University of Georgia, scrutinized existing initiatives aimed at preparing for a human pandemic involving the prevailing avian flu variants. They have pinpointed numerous promising avenues for vaccine advancement.

“This exhaustive exploration of the avian influenza vaccine landscape for humans underscores the significance of vaccination as the primary defense against the proliferation of these pathogens,” remarks Faccin.

Until avian flu transitions directly between humans, large-scale vaccine production remains impracticable. Nonetheless, scientists are actively refining diverse forms of pharmaceutical protection poised for deployment if necessary.

“Thorough examination and adoption of a diverse array of vaccine platforms are pivotal in fortifying pandemic readiness and abating the threat posed by avian influenza viruses,” asserts the researchers in their published manuscript, as per Science Alert.

Faccin and Perez examined inactivated vaccines, which are formulated using deceased iterations of the virus they aim to combat. Preliminary assessments, including a study involving mice infected with the H5N1 virus, have demonstrated substantial protective efficacy.

Furthermore, live attenuated influenza vaccines (LAIVs) exist, employing weakened virus strains to prime the body’s defenses against more virulent variants. Typically, these vaccines elicit a more comprehensive immune response, with promising outcomes observed for H5N1, including a study involving primates.

The researchers also explored novel vaccine technologies, such as virus-like particle (VLP) vaccines, which endeavor to replicate real viruses safely, and messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines, utilizing mRNA fragments to instruct cells to synthesize proteins corresponding to the targeted virus.

Early findings in these areas are encouraging, with limited human trials already underway.

While there is no room for complacency—especially considering the 50% mortality rate associated with H5N1 avian flu—the progress in vaccine research thus far is heartening. The deployment of these vaccines, if necessitated, will demand collaboration across various nations and organizations, an endeavor the World Health Organization is striving to facilitate, as per Science Alert.

“The H5N1, H7N9, and H9N2 subtypes of avian influenza virus pose a dual threat, not only inflicting considerable economic losses on the global poultry industry but also presenting an urgent public health challenge due to documented instances of spillover and human infections,” emphasized Faccin.

The findings of this research have been documented in Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics.

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