Australian company to start trials of bird flu vaccine

CSL Ltd will begin human trials of a bird flu vaccine next month as the government warned travelers on Thursday about an outbreak of the deadly virus in parts of Asia.

Australian company is the world's top maker of human plasma products and spokeswoman Rachel David said the vaccine against the H5N1 strain of avian flu would be tested on 400 human volunteers. Results were expected by the end of the year.

Bird flu has killed a confirmed 64 people in Asia since late 2003. Indonesia is suffering an outbreak of the disease, which has killed at least four people while 11 are under observation in hospital with bird flu-like symptoms.

The Australian government gave CSL A$5 million ($3.8 million) in July to fast-track development of a vaccine.

"What we're testing in the trials is the dose that we need to use for the vaccine to be effective. The technology is tried and true but what we need to find out with this completely new strain is whether the doses we are using are effective," David said, reports Reuters.

According to Bloomberg, the Southeast Asian nation may be facing a bird flu epidemic after at least four human fatalities, Indonesian Agriculture Minister Anton Apriantono said yesterday.

Avian influenza has infected more than 100 people in Asia and killed about half of them since 2004, three health agencies, including the World Health Organization, said last month.

More than 140 million chickens have been slaughtered in Asia because of concern that the H5N1 virus may mutate into a form easily transmissible between humans.

As humans are unlikely to have immunity to a mutated strain of H5N1, the World Health Organization is concerned it may trigger an influenza pandemic like the one that led to more than 40 million deaths worldwide in 1918. All cases of human infection in Asia are said by health officials to have come from animals.

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