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Promising Vaccines Being Developed for Bird Flu

Bird flu continues to worry Asia. The H5N1 virus killed 4,000 chickens in southern Japan in recent weeks. The virus has also been reported recently in Indonesia, Thailand, China and even Egypt and England. But there may be medical hope on the horizon, as both Australia and Taiwan are reporting progress on a bird flu vaccine. One vaccine has been tested on humans, the other on animals. Voice of America's Rebecca Ward has the story:

CSL Limited is the biggest pharmaceutical company in Australia, and in late January the company applied for permission to manufacture a bird flu vaccine. CSL says it is confident the vaccine will substantially boost the ability of the human immune system to fight the disease. Manufacturing of the medication could begin within weeks.

CSL's chief science officer, Andrew Cuthbertson, says that the company will distribute the drug overseas, if allowed. "We would be thrilled to be able to supply other countries in the region and indeed in the world, but I think it would be a matter of Australian government policy as to how we rolled out distribution of the vaccine."

Meanwhile, Taiwan's National Health Institute announces that it has developed a vaccine it reports to offer a 70 percent improvement in survival rates in infected rats tested in the laboratory. The institute spent 13 months researching and producing the new vaccine. The head of the Taiwan research team is Yiren Su:

"If the lab rats used in the research are not given the vaccination, almost 100 percent of them will die, but if they take this vaccination there is a 70 percent chance of survival," he said.

Taiwan's research scientists also say that Taiwan possesses key technologies needed for the fast production of the vaccine, which the Health Institute says it is planning to mass-produce by the end of 2007.