|Russia tests bird flu vaccine
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Tatyana Sinitsyna) - Clinical tests of a
bird flu vaccine, developed by the Russian Health Ministry's state-owned
Science and Production Association Mikrogen in conjunction with the
Academy of Medical Sciences, have been conducted in the last three months.
The tests involved 240 healthy volunteers, separated into two groups
numbering 120 men and women each. All of them received insurance policies
and benefits in line with international standards.
Mikrogen general director Dr. Anton Katlinsky said the tests had produced
encouraging results. "We used the World Health Organization's
recommendations in our work, as well as our own unique methods and
patented technologies," Professor Katlinsky said.
Dr. Vitaly Zverev, director of the Mechnikov Vaccine and Serum Research
Institute, said a study of post-vaccination side effects showed the
preparation was well tolerated, safe, and did not produce any serious
Vaccine developers now have to conduct augmented tests and to officially
register the new medication.
Several hundred million rubles have already been spent on this
high-priority medical project. This is seen as the only course of action
since a possible bird flu pandemic is likely to kill an estimated
one-third of the world's population.
Due to efforts by the WHO and numerous national medical and sanitary
services, including Russian agencies, no new bird flu outbreaks have been
registered to date. But this does not mean that the disease has been
Russian authorities have not yet registered any bird flu cases, but this
ominous virus killed six people in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, this
Wavering global interest in bird flu is directly linked with the
manifestations of this disease. A series of bird flu outbreaks, which
began in 1997 and lasted until 2006, convinced everyone that the virus was
a threat to humans and could cause serious complications and even death.
A major outbreak terrified mankind in December 2003 and fanned rumors of a
possible epidemic and even a global pandemic. Many countries, including
Russia, rushed to develop prototype bird flu preparations capable of
dealing with this new menace.
Of the 15 known bird flu virus strains, H5N1 is the most active and
dangerous one. The World Health Organization is worried that there may not
be sufficient quantities of the vaccine for everyone if a pandemic breaks
At present 360 million flu vaccines are produced annually. What makes the
situation grave is that the whole of mankind, or over six billion people,
would have to be vaccinated under the worst scenario.
Marie-Paule Kieny, director of the WHO Initiative for Vaccine Research,
told journalists she was satisfied with the completion of initial clinical
vaccine tests in Russia, a well-known and generally recognized producer of
such preparations. She stressed the latest Russian achievements were
encouraging, and the WHO will look forward to augmented clinical tests and
Many scientists believe that the H5N1 virus cannot cause a major epidemic
in the near future. "I see no reason to agree with assertions that
bird flu will wipe out mankind," said Vladimir Ivanitsky, PhD, a
lecturer at Moscow State University. He said the bird flu virus had been
known for a long time, birds had always contracted this disease, which
sometimes affected humans. "Nothing has changed in the nature of the
virus and birds," he said.
Globalization and enhanced medical control make it possible to more
effectively diagnose and treat various diseases than before. Mankind is
now better prepared to deal with a possible bird flu epidemic.
Vitaly Zverev said migrating birds would once again spread the active H5N1
virus all over the world the following spring.
Scientists believe the extremely mutagenous bird flu virus is bound to
change within the next few years, and new viruses are a major threat.
The new Mikrogen vaccine is vital because its initial strain can be
modified and used against a new strain, say, of the H7N2 virus.
Experts said it would take Russia seven to eight weeks to obtain the first
several million vaccines after singling out the initial strain. In short,
this country will receive enough anti-flu vaccines in 45 to 60 days.