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New Bird Flu Vaccine Nears Human Tests

DNA-Based Vaccine Could Be Ready Fast if Flu Pandemic Hits

Will It Work?

Adenoviruses induce very powerful immune responses, says flu expert John Treanor, MD, director of the vaccine and treatment evaluation unit at the University of Rochester in New York.

"Applying this to an H5 bird flu vaccine makes a lot of sense," Treanor tells WebMD. "Gambotto's team shows it can be quite protective in the mouse model. ... That is interesting because this could be a pathway toward a more broad-based vaccine that could protect against all viruses in the H5 subtype."

But Treanor warns that lots of vaccine approaches that look promising in mice never turn out to work in men and women. And he notes that experimental adenovirus vaccines have yet to live up to their potential.

"While adenoviruses have been evaluated as potential vaccine vectors for many years, there is no human vaccine that uses adenovirus for a vector," Treanor says. "There is no evidence that an adenoviral vaccine can protect humans against any disease except adenovirus."

Gambotto says this situation soon may change.

"I think this adenovirus technology is like the electric car," Gambotto says. "We all know that sooner or later we will drive an electric car. The technology just isn't quite there yet. But soon we will all be driving one."

Bird Flu Vaccines -- What's Next?

Gambotto says if the adenovirus vaccine works, it could be geared up to full production very soon after a flu pandemic breaks out.

Treanor warns, however, that the time savings offered by new technologies won't resolve all the problems with making a pandemic flu vaccine.

"This is not going to have as big an effect on the time to make a vaccine as you might think," he says. "It is generating the [ingredients needed to produce vaccine], it is the processing time, it is the putting-things-in-vials time, and all the other steps involved in making a vaccine," he says. "Growing a virus is one thing, but not the only thing. A process like this where you clone the gene into something would be faster. You shave time off the growth of the product, but there are other components that would still pose a time barrier."

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