WINNIPEG -- Work on a new vaccine to guard against human swine flu is under way in a Winnipeg lab as health officials across the continent move to contain the growing threat that could spark a worldwide influenza outbreak.
With the mysterious disease that initially cropped up in Mexico spreading to Canada, teams of scientists from the Winnipeg-based National Microbiology Lab have started work on a vaccine to protect against H1N1 swine flu and are investigating whether the existing flu shot could offer any protection from the virus.
Dr. Frank Plummer, the lab’s scientific director, said scientists will test to see if the flu shot will protect animals from swine flu since the annual shot already contains H1N1 human flu virus. Dr. Plummer said there are still many unknowns about human swine flu, but said genetics or environmental factors could help to explain why Mexico seems to be experiencing a more severe form of swine flu than seen in Canada and the U.S.
Winnipeg’s lab has done most of the testing of swine flu samples from Mexico. Dr. Plummer said he’s had a good working relationship with Mexican health officials through the Canadian-led Global Health Security Action Group, which is why Mexican authorities approached the Winnipeg lab for help diagnosing samples on April 17.
Dr. Plummer said Friday it would take scientists at least six months to develop a vaccine.
Winnipeg Free Press