Using a strategy involving a genetically modified baculovirus and caterpillar cells scientists from Protein Sciences Corporation have been able to speed up a key step in the development of an experimental cell-based influenza vaccine. They report their findings today at the 2005 American Society for Microbiology Biodefense Research Meeting.
"The bird flu may become the next flu pandemic strain. It could happen at any time," says Keyang Wang, a scientist at Protein Sciences Corp. and a researcher on the study. "The most effective method to control such an outbreak is the widespread use of a vaccine. The traditional egg-based method requires 3 to 6 months to develop the vaccine. With our cell-based method, the time from receipt of the virus strain to the final vaccine product would be shortened to approximately 1 to 2 months."
Todays flu vaccines are prepared in fertilized chicken eggs. The eggshell is punctured, and the influenza virus is injected into the fluid surrounding the embryo. The egg is then resealed, the embryo becomes infected, and the resulting virus is then harvested, purified and used to produce the vaccine. In addition to the long development time, another drawback to this method is the possibility that an avian influenza virus would be lethal to embryos in the eggs.
Jim Sliwa | EurekAlert!
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