The trouble with fighting avian influenza (more commonly known as "bird flu") is how the viruses that cause potentially deadly illnesses have a tricky tendency to mutate and adapt. Certain strains of these forms of influenza are what is called zoonotic, which means they can be transmitted to humans. A new piece up this week at Science Daily details efforts by researchers to race against the clock and develop vaccines to troublesome strains:
"A recent study with Kansas State University researchers details vaccine development for two new strains of avian influenza that can be transmitted from poultry to humans. ... The new vaccine-development method is expected to help researchers make vaccines for emerging strains of avian influenza more quickly."
The strains referenced — H5N1 and H7N9 — are two relatively new strains that have caused the deaths of hundreds of people, not to mention those of exponentially more commercial chickens and turkeys. While the vaccines themselves are a great achievement, the more important development is the method by which they were created:
"Researchers developed a vaccine for H5N1 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 H5N1 virus was transplanted into the Newcastle disease virus vaccine, creating a recombinant virus...
Using the same method for developing the H5N1 vaccine, researchers inserted a small section of the H7N9 virus into the Newcastle disease virus vaccine. Chickens given this recombinant vaccine were protected against the Newcastle disease virus and H7N9...
Using the Newcastle disease virus for vaccine development may extend beyond poultry to pigs, cattle, and sheep."
Read more at Science Daily.
Photo credit: EsHanPhot / Shutterstock