Remember the horrific new flu virus the birds gave to us humans in China back in March? Chinese researchers have now developed a vaccine for the disease that could slow or halt a potential global epidemic.
Shu Yuelong, director of both the Chinese National Influenza Center and the WHO Collaborating Center for Reference and Research on Influenza, pointed out that the new influenza vaccine provides "important technical support" to battle the new flu strain in the worldwide effort to contain the deadly new disease.
The strain of influenza A known as H7N9 has had a huge fatality rate of about one victim for every three patients. So far, it has infected patients in no other countries. The cases hit the Chinese poultry industry pretty hard.
This breakthrough is China's first ever flu vaccine development. Research started when the scientific team successfully isolated H7N9 from an infected patient's throat swab sample on April 3, just a month after the disease was first reported. Researchers used plasmid reverse genetics and genetic reassortment to develop vaccine seeds.
The deadly new strain from eastern China took a vacation during the summer months, when its activity in humans decreased due to the weather. Animals appear to have continued to harbor the virus. "Fresh human cases in eastern China of a deadly new strain of bird flu signal the potential for 'a new epidemic wave' of the disease in coming winter months," scientists said on Saturday.
In August, the British Medical Journal published the first scientific analysis of probable transmission of H7N9 from person to person. Another study identified several other avian H7 flu viruses that may pose threats down the line. Then the School of Medicine of Zhejiang University, Hong Kong University, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, [Chinese] National Institute for Food and Drug Control, and Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences developed the vaccine.
At least two new cases of H7N9 were reported in October: one in a 67-year-old man with no underlying disease who worked in poultry transport and sales; and another in a younger patient (35, also male) with no obvious underlying diseases. The latter case caused more concern because the patient was younger and had no obvious recent direct contact with live poultry.