Covid jab technology-based bird flu vaccine may help curb H5N1 cases

by IANS |

New Delhi, May 24 (IANS) Amid the global rise in H5N1 cases, US scientists have developed an experimental mRNA vaccine -- based on Covid-19 jab technology -- to fight avian or bird flu infections.

Preclinical models, detailed in the journal Nature Communications, showed that the jab against the avian influenza virus H5N1 is highly effective in preventing severe illness and death.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania noted that the vaccine could potentially help manage the outbreak of the H5N1 virus currently circulating in birds and cattle in the US, and also prevent human infections with the virus.

According to Scott Hensley, Professor of Microbiology at the varsity’s Perelman School of Medicine, mRNA technology enables the scientists “to be much more agile in developing vaccines.”

Scott added that mRNA vaccines can be created “within hours of sequencing a new viral strain with pandemic potential".

mRNA vaccines are easily and quickly adapted to protect against different strains of influenza viruses, and don't require eggs for their development, as most of the current influenza vaccines.

The new mRNA vaccine targets a specific subtype of the H5N1 virus and was found to elicit a strong antibody and T-cell response in mice and ferrets.

Importantly, the animals maintained high levels of antibodies even a year after vaccination.

Among those infected with H5N1, the vaccine helped clear the virus more rapidly and showed fewer symptoms than those unvaccinated.

Compared to the vaccinated animals, all of the unvaccinated animals died following a H5N1 infection, the researchers said.

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