Researchers at Kansas State University have developed a vaccine for two new strains of avian influenza that have been making their way across Asia, leaving hundreds of people dead and causing farmers to kill millions of animals, Science Daily reported.
One virus, H5N1, which has a 60 percent mortality rate, has killed hundreds in southeast Asia and north Africa. The other strain, H7N9, has been spreading around China since 2013, according to the World Health Organization. The two viruses are especially dangerous because they are able to jump from animals to humans, and have proved deadly. So far, they have killed hundreds people and farmers have killed thousands of animals to prevent its spread.
Unlike H5N1, animals that have contracted H7N9 don’t show symptoms, which makes it easier for humans to unwittingly slaughter and consume them.
Scientists were able to treat the strains by combining the virus with a vaccine for Newcastle disease. The new vaccine was proven to be effective against both viruses.
"We believe this Newcastle disease virus concept works very well for poultry because you kill two birds with one stone, metaphorically speaking," Jürgen Richt, director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases, told Science Daily. "You use only one vector to vaccinate and protect against a selected virus strain of avian influenza."
This approach is a breakthrough not just because of H5N1 and H7N9, but because it should help scientists fight other, similar viruses in the future and create vaccines quickly. Richt and research partner Aolfo Garcia-Sastre of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai hospital in New York published their work in the Journal of Virology.