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    Initial human trials of bird flu vaccine in Russia a success

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    The first Russian trials of a human vaccine against the H5N1 bird flu virus was a success, a Russian research institute member said Monday.

    ST. PETERSBURG, September 25 (RIA Novosti) - The first Russian trials of a human vaccine against the H5N1 bird flu virus was a success, a Russian research institute member said Monday.

    Marina Yerofeyeva, a lab head at a research center specializing in flu viruses, said three of the six tested versions of the vaccine proved successful, and researchers will now select the most appropriate one.

    "There will be two assessment criteria," Yerofeyeva said. "The first is vaccine safety, i.e. volunteers' response to a vaccine in question. The other criterion is the number of immune bodies a vaccine produces in volunteers' blood tests."

    Three versions of two types of the vaccine were tested on six groups comprising 20 volunteers each, and none of the volunteers complained of complications or serious disorders after they were injected with the serum, Yerofeyeva said.

    Yerofeyeva said two or three vaccine versions will be tested on larger volunteer groups of about 100 people in the next stage of the effort against the disease. Scientists fear the virus could mutate into a form transmissible between humans, sparking a global pandemic.

    The disease has spread worldwide since it was first spotted in Asia in 2003, and has claimed dozens of human lives. No human fatalities have been reported in Russia.

    This year, an epidemic of the deadly virus broke out in five Siberian and 11 southern regions, resulting in the deaths and culling of about 1.5 million birds.

    Several research centers will be involved in the second phase, and commercial production of the vaccine can begin after its completion, the researcher said.

    "I believe the problem will be resolved, and that vaccine production will be launched by next spring," Yerofeyeva said.

    She said the vaccine is likely to be given mainly to people in high-risk groups, including poultry farm workers, hunters and veterinary workers.

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