The world’s first human trials of a swine flu vaccine have begun in Australia, drug company officials said today, with the aim of controlling the virus that has so far killed more than 700 people worldwide.
Two biotechnology companies have started injecting adult volunteers in the southern city of Adelaide with their vaccines.
Adelaide-based Vaxine began trials on Monday with 300 subjects, and Melbourne’s CSL has 240 people in its seven-month trial, which started today. The companies say their trials are the first tests of a swine flu vaccine on humans.
At least 41 people have died in swine flu-related illness in Australia, which is well into its winter flu season.
“We’re in the southern hemisphere, and that is where the problem is right now,” said Vaxine research director Nikolai Petrovsky.
Australia had confirmed 14,703 cases of swine flu as of today, while the worldwide death toll from swine flu is more than 700, according to the World Health Organisation, which recently stopped counting the number of cases worldwide.
An explosion of cases is predicted in September and October.
CSL’s director of research and development Andrew Cuthbertson said: “We have a specific vaccine that we believe will be able to protect millions of people against this new H1N1 flu.”
He called swine flu “a novel strain of influenza” and said the trial would determine the dose and schedule of the vaccination.
Vaxine’s Petrovsky said it would be six to eight weeks before results would verify whether a vaccine was effective.
“There is no guarantee any of these vaccines will work,” he said. “Swine flu is a very peculiar beast, its a very different virus that we’re dealing with. But we are hopeful.”
Medical experts warned against rushing the vaccines through trials.