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UK scientists hail swine flu vaccine breakthrough

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UK scientists have made a crucial step towards the large scale production of a swine flu vaccine.

The National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) has found a strain of virus suitable for vaccine manufacture, which is being made available to pharmaceutical companies and other flu laboratories.

Part of the Health Protection Agency, NIBSC is one of a group of laboratories belonging to the World Health Organization network that have been trying to produce a virus strain suitable for vaccine manufacture.

The vaccine will most likely be produced in eggs, which are the mainstay of influenza vaccine production.

A vaccine candidate involves creating a hybrid between the strain of virus causing the disease and a laboratory strain.

The new hybrid does not cause symptoms but tricks the body’s immune system into producing antibodies that will kill the real H1N1 virus should an infection occur.

Using a process called reverse genetics, the NIBSC team took crucial gene sequences from the new swine flu virus and combined them with sequences in the laboratory virus.

Dr Stephen Inglis, director of NIBSC, said: ‘Our scientists have been working round the clock to develop a vaccine candidate since we received the first swine flu isolate from the USA at the beginning of May and I am delighted that they have been successful so quickly.’

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