US to begin testing first avian flu shot in poultry

The Biden administration has been weighing testing the first avian flu shot in chickens and other types of poultry for several years now.

The move is in response to growing fears about the spread of highly virulent avian influenza, which has killed millions of birds, most of which have been found in commercial poultry flocks.

In recent weeks, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued an alert after reports of strains of the virus jumping from birds to mammals, urging countries to prepare for the possibility of another pandemic caused by H5N1.

“Over the past few weeks, several mammals, including mink, otters, foxes and sea lions, have been reported to be infected with H5N1 avian influenza,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a global health news conference. .

“H5N1 has been widespread in wild birds and poultry for 25 years, but the recent spillover to mammals needs to be closely monitored. For the moment, WHO assesses the risk to humans as low,” he added.

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Now, federal scientists are preparing to test the first avian flu shot in years.

However, vaccinating commercial birds is not an easy solution because some people worry that it will make it more difficult for the United States to export poultry products.

USDA spokesman Mike Stepien told CBS News, “The decision to move forward with vaccination is complex, and many factors must be considered before implementing a vaccination strategy,” adding that the inspection service is discussing its options and seeking input from “many different industry stakeholders that will be affected.”

Stepien noted that while animal vaccination licenses can take several years, some steps can be expedited in emergency situations.

Also, they’re not sure if the new shot can protect against the current strain of avian influenza.

“There are a lot of moving parts to this type of test. And some of that is getting everything right for testing, getting updated vaccines, the teams involved, the pure logistics of getting things from different manufacturers,” Erin Spackman, a virologist studying avian influenza vaccines at the USDA. , CBS said.

The USDA has not released any information about the type of shot that will be used throughout the testing process.

According to the Daily Mail, “There is some development going on, and at the Pirbright Institute in the UK, scientists are developing an improved shot that involves tagging flu virus proteins with a marker that makes them easier for antigen-presenting cells (APCs) to capture. It’s the current standard. The inactivated virus produces a faster and stronger immune response to the bird flu strain than the vaccine.”

There is also a study suggesting the use of mRNA vaccines for poultry.

Recall, the government of New South Wales has announced that it has requested the American biotechnology company Tiba Biotech to accelerate the development of the first mRNA vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and lumpy skin disease.

“The Government of NSW is taking the threat of FMD and Lumpy Skin Disease very seriously, and this milestone is another step forward in preparing for a potential outbreak,” said Paul Toole, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW.

NSW hopes to develop the world-first synthetic vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and ringworm by August 2023 with a $6 million government grant.

“I have now written to the vaccine manufacturers to take up my challenge to have both vaccines ready for use and manufacture in NSW by August 1 next year,” Toole said.