AMERICAN scientists have begun the first human trial of a DNA vaccine designed to prevent H5N1 avian flu infection.
The DNA-based vaccine, designed by scientists from the Vaccine Research Centre (VRC) at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, does not contain any infectious material from the influenza virus.
At present, conventional flu vaccines are developed by growing the influenza virus in hens' eggs and then administered as a weakened or killed form of the virus.
But DNA-based vaccines contain only portions of the virus' genetic material. Once inside the body, the DNA instructs human cells to make proteins to act as a vaccine against the virus.
VRC director Gary Nabel said: 'An effective H5N1 influenza vaccine would provide a potentially life-saving advance against a global health threat...Development of DNA vaccine technology has the potential to improve our production capacity for vaccines to prevent seasonal influenza and other diseases.'