January 25, 2008 / 10:47 AM / 10 years ago

Engineered blood may help bird flu fight - Crucell

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BANGKOK, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Blood taken from ordinary donors and engineered to recognise the H5N1 bird flu virus was able to protect mice from several strains of the disease, a researcher at Dutch biotechnology firm Crucell CRCL.AS said on Friday.

The finding may offer another way to help fight H5N1, which experts fear could unleash a pandemic if it learns to move efficiently between people, which it cannot now.

Crucell created human monoclonal antibodies, or immune system proteins, by mixing antibody fragments taken from nine donors who were never exposed to H5N1 with antigens from two major H5N1 strains found in Vietnam and Indonesia.

Antigens are components in viruses and bacteria that stimulate the production of antibodies when they are introduced into the body.

One particular line of antibodies that Crucell created was able to neutralise several strains of the H5N1 on laboratory dishes -- most notably, strains found in Hong Kong in 1997, Indonesia in 2005 and Vietnam in 2003.

The scientists then injected the engineered antibodies into mice earlier given lethal dosages of H5N1 virus, Mark Throsby, project director for antibody discovery at Crucell, told a bird flu conference in Bangkok.

"Three days after the infection, we gave them the antibodies and we were able to protect all the animals. It reduced their disease and they became well again," Throsby told Reuters later.

The nine people who donated their blood were never exposed to H5N1 although they may have been boosted by vaccines against normal seasonal flu, he said. (Reporting by Tan Ee Lyn; Editing by Darren Schuettler)

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