Although traditional avian influenza vaccines tend to only be effective against one particular type of ‘flu, researchers at the Pirbright Institute claim to have taken an “important step” towards a universal vaccine.
Researchers at The Pirbright Institute have claimed they have taken an “important step” towards a universal vaccine against avian influenza.
Traditional avian ‘flu vaccines tend to only be effective against one particular type of ‘flu. Colin Butter, research leader of the avian viral immunology group at the institute, however, said he believed the group’s research was suggesting a universal vaccine was possible “in principle“.
According to Dr Butter, the team used a vaccine based on proteins from within a human ‘flu virus, which was effective to initiate an immune response in chickens that would, in theory, protect against multiple strains of ‘flu. It also reduced the extent to which birds shed live infectious virus that could further an outbreak of disease.
Dr Butter said: “We’ve found that by using proteins that are very similar in all ‘flu viruses and delivering them packaged inside another harmless virus, we can safely vaccinate into eggs while the chick is still developing and then give a booster injection after hatch.
“This seems to be effective in priming the chicken’s immune systems against a bird ‘flu virus only distantly related to the human virus whose genes we used to make the vaccine.”
Avian influenza poses a serious threat to the £8b UK poultry industry, and avian strains can evolve to infect humans.
For more information, visit The Pirbright Institute’s website.