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Scientists Aim to Improve Vaccines Against Avian Flu

Two studies show promising results

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 8, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Two groups of researchers report they are refining the vaccine strategies that will be needed in the event of an avian influenza pandemic. Both studies appear in the Oct. 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, a theme issue on infectious disease.

In the first study, researchers tested the experimental H7N9 vaccine in 700 adults aged 19 to 64, randomly administering either the vaccine alone or the vaccine mixed with an adjuvant called MF59. The experimental vaccine on its own produced a minimal immune response against H7N9, but when mixed with MF59, the vaccine created a significant immune response in 59 percent of participants. Younger people responded even better. About 80 percent of the younger third of the subjects, aged 19 to 34, mounted an effective immune response.

The other study involves an existing vaccine that targets an older strain of avian flu known as the "Vietnam" strain. Researchers wanted to find out if, by using the older vaccine, they could prime the immune system's memory and improve its response to newer bird flu vaccines, study author Robert Belshe, M.D., a professor of infectious diseases at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, told HealthDay.

A year after 72 participants had been inoculated against the Vietnam strain, researchers gave them a vaccine aimed at preventing a newer strain known as "Anhui." These participants displayed a boosted immune response when compared to 565 people who only received the Anhui vaccine, the researchers found.

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