Using gene samples of the new H1N1 virus that he received this week, Mittal hopes to work with scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  to have a vaccine ready for testing within the month.
“We would like to have a vaccine in two to three weeks to start testing in mice,” says Mittal, a professor of comparative pathobiology in the School of Veterinary Medicine. “We are trying to use a similar approach with the 2009 H1N1 virus as we did with the H5N1 bird flu virus.”
Traditional flu vaccines are composed of three flu viruses grown in chicken eggs. Because they are dead, instead of causing illness, they create an antibody-based protection against closely related flu strains.
However, these traditional vaccines won’t protect against the H1N1 flu virus.
Mittal and CDC cohorts used an adenovirus, a common cold virus, to carry a gene of the H5N1 bird flu virus in 2006.
“The adenovirus is incapable of replicating and does not seem to cause disease in humans,” Mittal explains. “That makes it a suitable virus to work with for flu vaccines.”
He says when the virus enters cells in a person’s body, the cells use the influenza genes to create the proteins, or antigens, themselves. In doing so, the cells create both antibodies and cell-based protection from mutated forms of the influenza virus.
Mittal’s bird flu vaccine worked on three different strains isolated over a seven-year period. He’s hoping to see similar results with an H1N1 flu vaccine.
With work underway, Mittal believes a new flu vaccine using the adenovirus could be ready for production within a few months.