Dr. Suresh Mittal, an Indian-origin Professor at Purdue's College of Veterinary Medicine, US, has been recently awarded with a grant of $1.55 million by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his continued research on a rare bird flu vaccine. The funding will allow more collaboration at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Mittal and his team are working to create a vaccine that offers broad protection against multiple strains and mutations of the virus. He, along with his team, is credited to create a vaccine in 2006 for the H5N1 bird flu virus. The team is now focusing on developing a broad spectrum vaccine capable of covering emerging influenza viruses, which have the potential to cause the next influenza pandemic in humans, including H5N1 H7N3, H7N7, H7N9 and H9N2.
"These viruses begin in wild birds and as they evolve they expand to poultry and then to humans…..There is a very real risk that we will face an avian influenza pandemic at some point in the future and we need to be prepared. One important way to prepare is to develop and stockpile an effective vaccine. We can't predict what strain of the virus will be involved in a pandemic, so we need a vaccine that can offer protection across all of the strains," said Dr. Mittal.
The Avian flu symptoms in humans have ranged from typical human flu-like symptoms to other symptoms including eye infections, pneumonia, severe respiratory diseases (such as acute respiratory distress syndrome), and other serious, also life-threatening complications.