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From a Reuters story that appeared today:

"Researchers studying bird flu viruses said on Thursday they may have come up with a way to vaccinate people before a feared influenza pandemic. Experts have long said there is no way to vaccinate people against a new strain of influenza until that strain evolves. That could mean months or even years of disease and death before a vaccination campaign began. But a team at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Maryland and the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta said they may have found a short-cut.


"They found a mutation that makes one strain of the H1N1 virus more easily infect birds, and another one prefer humans. It lies in the part of the virus that attaches to cells in the respiratory tract. They then made the same alteration in an H5N1 virus, and vaccinated mice with some of this genetically engineered H5N1 DNA. They found an antibody that could neutralize both types of H5N1 -- H5N1 adapted to birds, and an engineered form that would in theory prefer humans..."

There is a loooong road from concept to reality, but this is potentially very good news indeed.

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