Wetenschap - 29 september 2011

Vaccine available to stop flu pandemic

There is an effective vaccine available to protect pigs from swine flu and prevent the flu virus from spreading from pigs to humans, say researchers at the Central Veterinary Institute this month in the journal Veterinary Microbiology.


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However, it is very uncertain whether this vaccine will actually be used. 'There is no longer an acute risk to humans', says researcher Willie Loeffen. In 2009, swine flu developed into a global pandemic. Because the virus apparently came from pigs, people were afraid that pigs were playing a key role in the spread of the virus although that ultimately turned out not to be the case.
But the study shows that researchers will rapidly be able to make a new vaccine, should a new flu virus emerge among pigs that is dangerous to humans. Loeffen compared two existing, commercially available vaccines for flu in pigs with an experimental vaccine that the company Intervet had developed especially for swine flu. The existing vaccines curb the ability of the flu virus to reproduce and spread somewhat, whereas the experimental vaccine stops it spreading almost entirely. 'This means we can stop the spread of the flu virus among pigs', says Loeffen.
What is more important is that the experimental, effective vaccine can be produced very quickly. 'If a new variant of the flu virus emerges among pigs, Intervet can develop an effective vaccine very rapidly', says Loeffen. The experimental vaccine contains eight pieces of genetic material from the flu virus. If the researchers replace two of those eight pieces by genetic material from a new virus, they will have a new effective vaccine. So if a new virus strain develops in pigs, the solution is already available.