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US$2.2 Million Grant Boosts Research on Flu Virus

13 January 2014

US - A universal vaccine would protect humans, pigs and poultry, say researchers at Ohio state University.

As public health officials keep a wary eye for signs of resurgence of a deadly flu strain that emerged in China last spring, an Ohio State University researcher is working on a new type of vaccine that would vastly improve the odds of protecting both humans and animals from the flu virus.

Chang-Won Lee, an associate professor in CFAES’s Food Animal Health Research programme, received a five-year, $2.2 million grant last year from a special joint programme between the National Institutes of Health and the US Department of Agriculture.

Currently available flu vaccines are effective against only a few strains at a time, and they are not always targeted against the strains that end up circulating during flu season.

That is one reason why more than 200,000 people are admitted to hospital due to seasonal flu every year in the United States, with thousands of deaths. In addition, flu viruses mutate easily, developing new pandemic strains that humans have little to no immunity against.

Dr Lee’s project is testing swine and chickens at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s campus in Wooster in addition to mice — the traditional model — to develop a universal flu vaccine.

“If you can show that something works in a large animal, especially swine, which is anatomically, physiologically and immunologically similar to humans, then there is much more of a chance that it will work in humans,” Dr Lee said.

“And since swine and poultry are the top two types of animals affected by the flu and sporadically transmit the virus to humans, you get a dual benefit from this research.

“Agricultural and medical researchers don’t normally work together, but we should,” Lee said. In this project, Dr Lee is working with Xi (Jason) Jiang at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

ThePigSite News Desk

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