Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Indonesia confirms two more bird flu deaths

Jakarta (VNA) - The Indonesian Health Ministry on August 13 confirmed the deaths of a woman and her daughter in Bali as a results of bird flu, bringing the country's total death toll from the disease to 83.

These were the first human deaths from bird flu on the resort island, where the H5N1 virus was identified more than a year ago.

The 29-year-old woman died on August 12 and her five-year-old daughter on August 3, Bayu Krisnamurti, head of the national commission for bird flu, said.

Laboratory tests provided by the Eikman Institute and the Health Ministry confirmed the presence of H5N1 in both cases, Bayu told reporters.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Baxter says trial on new flu shot promising

Baxter International Inc., working to modernize the production of influenza vaccines, this morning said its seasonal flu product is showing "strong antibody responses and good tolerability" in an early stage clinical trial in humans.

Although Baxter is still several years from winning approval of the product, the study shows Baxter's reformulated seasonal flu vaccine is tolerable. In late 2004, Baxter had to suspend final-stage human sudy of its seasonal flu vaccine because it was causing fevers in some patients.

The Deerfield-based medical product giant is trying to develop a flu vaccine produced with cell tissues, which is a method that would allow manufacturers to quickly brew vaccine by the vat and likely eliminate shortages like the one that rattle U.S. consumers and health-care providers from time to time.
The cell-based approach is a sharp contrast to the tedious, 1940s method still used today that involves hand-processing millions of chicken eggs in labs. For each dosers shine a light through the shell of an egg to find the fluid surrounding an embryo, inject a strain of the flu virus and let it incubate for several months.

The current method is a long months-long process fraught with risk, while cell-based vaccines are more consistent and could be produced in as little as nine to 12 weeks.

In the latest clinical trial, Baxter said more than 900 patients were studied. Baxter said the preliminary data show its cell-based seasonal influenza vaccine's "tolerability profile" to be similar to egg-based seasonal flu vaccines on the market. There were, however, some side effects that included headaches and some injection site reactions, Baxter said.

Baxter is building momentum for its vaccines business. The company is also in the final stages of testing for a vaccine against strains of the Avian influenza, also known as the bird flu and is working with governments around the world interested in stockpiling the product in the event of a pandemic outbreak. Chicago Tribune

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

GlaxoSmithKline ready to work with Japanese drugmakers on bird flu vaccine

TOKYO: GlaxoSmithKline PLC is ready to work with Japanese pharmaceutical companies if the Japanese government agrees to stockpile the company's pre-pandemic vaccine for bird flu, the head of the company's vaccine business said Wednesday.

"We are in contact with all the local vaccine manufacturers" and the Japanese government to discuss the need to prepare for a possible bird flu outbreak among humans, said Jean Stephenne, president of GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals at a news conference in Tokyo.

Britain-based GlaxoSmithKline is one of the world's largest makers of vaccines and is calling on governments to stockpile pre-pandemic influenza vaccine to deal with outbreaks in their early stages.

If a bird flu pandemic hits, Japanese companies could manufacture vaccines using GlaxoSmithKline technology, while its adjuvant system could be applied to existing vaccines.

GlaxoSmithKline's adjuvant system can reduce the dosage from a vaccine for protection and assists in providing protection against similar strains of a virus, improving the chances of controlling mutated versions of the H5N1 bird flu virus, according to Stephenne.

Japan's vaccine market is tightly closed, and major vaccine makers are government-affiliated organizations that don't have very strong funding or research capabilities.

Japan's vaccine development guidelines also differ from those of other major markets and the World Health Organization, making it difficult to import vaccines made overseas. (The Associated Press)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Veterinarians Could Be First to Get Bird Flu

MONDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- Because veterinarians who work with birds are at increased risk of infection with bird flu viruses, they should be included on lists of people with priority access to pandemic flu vaccines and antiviral drugs, U.S. researchers say.

A team at the University of Iowa College of Public Health analyzed blood samples from a group of American veterinarians who worked with chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese or quail.

They found that their blood had increased levels of antibodies against the H5, H6 and H7 avian influenza viruses. These increased levels indicated that the veterinarians had previously been infected by these viruses.

These mild forms of bird flu occasionally circulate among wild and domestic birds in the United States. But experts fear that the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus that emerged in Asia may mutate into a form that's easily transmitted between humans and trigger a global pandemic.

"Veterinarians and others with frequent and close contact to infected birds may be among the first to be infected with a pandemic strain of influenza," study author Kendall Myers, a doctoral student in occupational and environmental health, said in a prepared statement.

"They have the potential to spread the illness to their families and communities. Because of this, we suggest that veterinarians should be considered for inclusion on priority access lists for pandemic influenza vaccines and antivirals," Myers said.

The study is published in the July 1 issue of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

WHO reaches bird flu vaccine deal

GENEVA, Switzerland (AP) -- The U.N. health agency Tuesday reached a preliminary agreement Tuesday seeking to ensure all countries share their H5N1 virus samples with the World Health Organization and that poor countries get a portion of future pandemic flu vaccines.

The draft resolution, which is expected to be formally adopted by the World Health Assembly on Wednesday, says that the agency will work out rules to guarantee "timely sharing of viruses" between affected countries and WHO, and ensure "fair and equitable distribution of pandemic influenza vaccines at affordable prices in the event of a pandemic."

The text, the result of strenuous negotiations between WHO member states, is written in very general terms without defining what a fair distribution of vaccines or timely sample sharing actually means. It also does not specify the details surrounding the formation of a pandemic flu vaccine stockpile, or how the stockpile would be distributed.

The discussion on virus sample sharing was among the predominant subjects at WHO's annual meeting against the backdrop of an ongoing battle with Indonesia over H5N1 virus samples.

Several experimental pre-pandemic vaccines based on H5N1 exist, but as the virus continues to mutate, scientists need to match the latest circulating strains to that in the vaccine, to ensure that the vaccines would work.

Indonesia, China have shown reluctance in sharing

Indonesia has not shared any bird flu samples since last December, arguing that the pharmaceutical companies that could develop vaccines would make them too expensive for its population.

Though Indonesia's health minister last week announced that the country had shared three viruses with a WHO-accredited laboratory in Japan, it is uncertain whether further viruses will be shared.

China has also been reluctant to share samples. No H5N1 viruses have been received from China for nearly a year -- during which time Beijing has reported several human bird flu cases. China is preparing five virus samples to share with WHO, but it is unknown when they will actually be sent, according to WHO.

WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan last week harshly criticized countries that do not share their H5N1 virus samples, accusing them of crippling the world in the fight against a possible flu pandemic.

An Indonesian-led draft proposal by developing countries had asked WHO to give H5N1 virus samples to vaccine manufactures only with the consent of the donor country.

But the resolution passed by Committee A today said that "in times of public health emergencies of international concern," manufacturers should be given "full access" to viruses from WHO. Although the text falls short of defining what constitutes a public health emergency, WHO officials said it would apply in the case of a flu pandemic.

Keeping the resolution rather vague, much work remains to be done by a WHO working group that is supposed to formulate the terms and conditions for virus and vaccine sharing.

Bird flu kills 5-year-old Indonesian girl

JAKARTA, Indonesia - A 5-year-old Indonesian girl from Central Java province has died of bird flu, a health ministry official said on Wednesday.

The girl from Wonogiri died last Thursday after being hospitalized on May 17 suffering from fever and respiratory problems, said Suharda Ningrum of the ministry’s bird flu center.

Authorities were still investigating the case, but at least 20 chickens had died suddenly near her home, the official said.

In Vietnam, a man infected with bird flu has been admitted to a hospital in Hanoi, becoming the first confirmed human case since November 2005, the state-run Tien Phong newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Tests confirmed the 30-year-old man was infected with the H5N1 bird flu virus. The man comes from Vinh Phuc province near the capital, the newspaper said.

Officials and doctors at the Hanoi hospital could not be reached for comment. (Reuters)

Monday, April 23, 2007

U.S. Approves Bird Flu Vaccine

U.S. regulators Tuesday approved the first vaccine against bird flu, which is aimed at protecting people from a pandemic. The government plans to buy enough doses of the Sanofi Aventis product to immunize 20 million people in the event of a global outbreak triggered by H5N1, the avian virus now causing a pandemic in birds.

The vaccine will not be available commercially but will be added to the government's stockpile of emergency supplies.

"The threat of an influenza pandemic is, at present, one of the most significant public health issues our nation and world faces," Andrew von Eschenbach, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said in a statement. "The approval of this vaccine is an important step forward in our protection against a pandemic."

H5N1 has infected more than 300 people since 2003, and more than half of them have died. H5N1 was first identified in Hong Kong 10 years ago.

Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

$26 million NIH contract to establish new flu/bird flu Center of Excellence

A research team at the University of Rochester Medical Center has been awarded $26 million to establish a research center with the goal of making seasonal influenza and future influenza pandemics less deadly.

The seven-year contract, announced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, will create the New York Influenza Center of Excellence (NYICE), a collaboration of the University of Rochester, Cornell University, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and community partners.

NYICE will be one of six centers nationally that together will receive approximately $138 million in new flu research funding over seven years.

The flu pandemic of 1918 ki lled more than 50 million people worldwide. Despite new vaccine technologies developed since then, flu remains the most common cause of vaccine-preventable de ath in the United States, causing 36,000 de aths annually and up to 200,000 hospital stays. In addition, the H5N1 subtype of avian flu viruses ("bird flu") continues to spread with migrating waterfowl, increasing the risk of bird-to-human infection and the chance that the virus will become more easily passed from person to person.

Drugs are available to treat influenza – amantadine, rimantadine, zanamivir and oseltamivir – but many flu strains have developed drug-resistant strains. Researchers do not yet know the degree of protection that experimental bird flu vaccines currently under development will provide, and authorities do not yet have the ability to stockpile approved, effective vaccines in advance of an outbreak.

Each of the six new centers will focus on basic research, surveillance studies or both. Teams will breakdown the molecular and environmental factors that influence the transmission and evolution of flu viruses and further study the immune system’s reaction to them. Others will seek to identify strains with pandemic potential, to create new vaccine candidates or to bolster pandemic preparedness. Along with the University of Rochester, recipients of the new contracts are Emory University, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, University of California at Los Angeles and University of Minnesota at Minneapolis.

"The current strategy of relying on vaccines that match each year’s particular strain imposes severe limitations on our ability to prepare for a pandemic," said John J. Treanor M.D., professor of Medicine and of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "Our goal is to transform our understanding of influenza through intensive and synergistic exploration of the virus, the human host, and the immune system. We hope that this will lead to more effective control of the viruses through a single vaccine that can be effective against many strains," said Treanor, principal investigator for the new center.


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