Bird flu prototype virus produced in lab: WHO
A high-security laboratory has created a prototype bird flu, the first step toward making a human vaccine against the potentially deadly new virus, a World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman said on Thursday.
The WHO will give the prototype virus next week to three drug makers who have expressed interest in producing small sample vaccine batches and carrying out clinical trials, WHO spokesman Dick Thompson said.
The clinical trials are expected to take several months, but large-scale vaccine production would only begin if a deadly pandemic broke out, he added.
Since bird flu erupted in Asia, the United Nations agency has been racing to develop a vaccine to protect humans against the H5N1 strain. Bird flu has killed 26 people in Vietnam and Thailand and decimated poultry stocks across Asia.
“One laboratory has produced the prototype virus. We have sent a note to vaccine manufacturers that the virus would be ready next week,” Thompson told Reuters.
In January, the WHO asked three high-security collaborating centers to produce a prototype. The spokesman declined to say which had succeeded, but he added that a formal announcement was expected next week.
The three are: the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, St. Jude Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee and Britain’s National Institute for Biological Standards and Control.
Initially 11 drug manufacturers had contacted the WHO about producing the vaccine, but only three have confirmed they want to proceed, according to Thompson. —Reuters