Insect Cells Instead of Eggs for Swine Flu Vaccine?

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 6 (HealthDay News) -- A method that uses insect cell-based technology produces vaccines for swine flu faster than traditional egg-based vaccine production, say Austrian scientists.

Using this new approach, the researchers created recombinant influenza virus-like particles (VLPs) in just 10 weeks, rather than the months it takes using conventional production methods. VLPs resemble virus particles but aren't infectious because they lack the viral nucleic acid.

The use of insect cells also avoids other egg-based production disadvantages, such as allergic reactions to egg proteins, biosafety issues and limited production capacity, the researchers said.

"Our work demonstrates that recombinant influenza virus-like particles are a very fast, safe and efficient alternative to conventional influenza vaccines and represent a significant new approach for newly emerging influenza strains like swine-origin H1N1 or H5N1," study co-author Florian Krammer, of the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna, said in a news release from Biotechnology Journal.

The study is in the journal's Jan. 5 issue.

Recent influenza outbreaks "highlight the importance of a rapid and sufficient vaccine supply for pandemic and inter-pandemic strains," Krammer noted. "However, classical manufacturing methods for vaccines fail to satisfy this demand."

Alois Jungbauer, a university professor and journal editor, said in the news release that "virus-like particles will be one solution to the biological variability of influenza pandemics."

"Mutated strains can be quickly engineered," Jungbauer said. "So, in this respect, the team's work is an extremely valuable contribution to modern vaccine production."

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: Biotechnology Journal, news release, Jan. 5, 2010