CDC preps for emerging swine flu strain

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control isn't taking any chances when it comes to swine flu. A new strain of the flu--H3N2--includes an element seen in the H1N1 swine flu pandemic of 2009, so the CDC is preparing a candidate vaccine and clinical trials for later this year.

Doctors have identified 29 human cases of the new strain in the past two years, with all such cases containing the matrix (m) gene found in the H1N1 pandemic virus. "This 'm' gene may confer increased transmissibility to and among humans, compared with other variant influenzas viruses," said Joseph Bresee, from the CDC's influenza division, as quoted by HealthDay. Part of the concern comes from the rate of infection; of the 29 cases reported, 16 occurred in the past three weeks, Bresee said.

Two inactivated vH3N2 vaccines have been manufactured by using egg- and cell-based technologies, Gretchen Michael, director of communications for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told FierceVaccines. Sanofi Pasteur is taking the lead on the egg-based vaccine, while Novartis ($NVS) is handling the cell-based vaccine.

Person-to-person transmission of the disease has yet to take place, which should ease some concerns at this time. In the reported cases, the individuals had close contact with animals carrying the virus, including time spent at a fair. But the CDC takes comfort in preparation.

"Because influenza viruses are always evolving, we will watch closely for signs that the virus has gained capacity for efficient and sustained human-to-human transmission," Bresee said. "Thus far, we have not seen this type of transmission and therefore are not seeing features consistent with an influenza pandemic."

- see the HealthDay story

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