Monday, March 12, 2007

No takers for India’s first bird flu vaccine

Bhopal: More than six months since a research institute here developed the first vaccine in India against bird flu, there seem to be no takers for its formula or even its doses, prepared after the avian influenza scare last year.The High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL) here, which developed the vaccine in July 2006, has preserved about 100,000 doses of the vaccine, each costing 27 paise. But no drug manufacturing company has contacted it so far to buy either these doses or the formula for commercial use, say its officials.

HSADL, which has the technique for identifying the avian influenza virus among poultry, tested thousands of bird samples including droppings of migratory birds last year after first strains of the deadly H5N1 avian influenza virus were detected in western Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra."The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) entrusted us with the job of developing the vaccine soon after the first outbreak of the disease in February 2006 and also promptly provided us Rs80mn to help us accomplish the challenging task," said the joint director H Pradhan.It was Pradhan who led a special team of scientists that swung into action, toiling day and night on the vaccine and developed it in less than six months after the outbreak."The cost of the vaccine has been worked out at 27 paise per dose. It is expected to go up to 35 paise including the trader's profit and cost of transportation. But it will be for the company manufacturing the vaccine to decide on the selling price," Pradhan said.After sweeping across two years and a wide swathe of South East Asia, parts of Central Asia, Africa and in Europe the deadly H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus was detected in India-in the tribal pocket of Navapur in northern Maharashtra's Nandurbar district. While health experts always believed that the disease was knocking on India's doors, it was lonely recently that the government was alerted by the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory in Bhopal. The lab confirmed the presence of the virus in eight samples of the dozen it received from Nandurbar-tests were being conducted on blood samples from dead birds since February 11 after about 40,000 chickens were reported to have died in the area. Talking about the efficacy of the vaccine, Pradhan said: "The vaccine can be used immediately after a bird flu outbreak to control the spread of the virus as well as for vaccination in anticipation of an outbreak."The immune response is good and the protection offered by the vaccine has been found to be above 90% ," he added. – IANS

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