The AP reports today on positive news in the race to develop a vaccine for H5N1 viruses:
Human trials indicate an H5N1 bird flu vaccine developed using a virus isolated in Vietnam can neutralize antibodies from H5N1 viruses found in other countries, the vaccine’s manufacturer said Wednesday.
The preliminary trial results raised hopes that vaccines based on older H5N1 bird flu strains might prove effective against future variants of the virus in the event of a pandemic.
In Sanofi Pasteur’s trial, 300 volunteers were vaccinated with a strain of the virus isolated in Vietnam in 2004. Antibodies were then examined from their blood, and tests were done using H5N1 viruses from Turkey and Indonesia. The results indicated that the volunteers’ antibodies were able to neutralize the other H5N1 viruses, proving that some measure of cross-protection is possible.
“This is a milestone for vaccine development,” said Dr. Klaus Stohr, the World Health Organization’s top official on pandemic influenza vaccines.
This could turn out to be very good news, and deliver a solution to an ominous challenge. We aren’t out of the woods yet, but the world’s leaders and scientists deserve a lot of credit for their effective and timely response to this challenge over the last twelve months.