GSK bird flu vaccine provides more positive data

New trial data on GlaxoSmithKline's experimental bird flu vaccine indicates that the drug works against a variety of subsets of the virus. A trial that recruited volunteers in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore showed that the vaccine spurred antibodies that neutralized both the Indonesian and Vietnamese strains of the virus. Earlier trial data for the adjuvanted vaccine, which is nearing official European approval, demonstrated efficacy against Chinese and Turkish strains.

The vaccine uses very low doses of antigens, relying on adjuvants to boost its ability to protect people from H5N1. But despite rapid progress in the field to develop new bird flu vaccines to head off any potential outbreaks, researchers are acutely aware that they're running the risk of being blindsided by a completely new strain of the virus. That possibility has led some experts, including Albert Osterhaus, head of virology at the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands, to conclude that antigens and adjuvants could be stockpiled separately, so that a new, customized mixture could be swiftly developed to protect populations from a disease that could threaten millions of lives.

"If a pandemic breaks out in Indonesia or Thailand, the virus could be in Singapore within two days," said Dr. Helen Oh, who was in charge of the Singapore trials.

- check out the report from the Sydney Morning Herald

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