A recent study by Kansas State University researchers and colleagues details vaccine development for two new strains of avian influenza that can be transmitted from poultry to humans. The strains have led to the culling of millions of commercial chickens and turkeys, as well as to the deaths of hundreds of people. The new vaccine development method is expected to help researchers make vaccines for emerging strains of avian influenza more quickly. This could reduce the number and intensity of large-scale outbreaks at poultry farms as well as curb transmission to humans. It may also lead to new influenza vaccines for pigs, and novel vaccines for sheep and other livestock, said Dr. Jürgen Richt, Regents Distinguished Professor of Veterinary Medicine and Director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases. Dr. Richt and his colleagues focused on the avian influenza virus subtype H5N1, a new strain most active in Indonesia, Egypt, and other Southeast Asian and North African countries. H5N1 also has been documented in wild birds in the U.S., though in fewer numbers. "H5N1 is a zoonotic pathogen, which means that it is transmitted from chickens to humans," Dr. Richt said. "So far, it has infected more than 700 people worldwide and has killed about 60 percent of them. Unfortunately, it has a pretty high mortality rate." Researchers developed a vaccine for H5N1 by combining two viruses. A vaccine strain of the Newcastle disease virus, a virus that naturally affects poultry, was cloned and a small section of the H5N1 virus was transplanted into the Newcastle disease virus vaccine, creating a recombinant virus. Tests showed that the new recombinant virus effectively vaccinated chickens against both Newcastle disease virus and H5N1 influenza virus.
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