Oz scientists' breakthrough in making bird flu testing safe

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Sydney, Feb 2 : Australian scientists have made a reakthrough in the fight against bird flu, by developing a safe echnique to study the virus.

According to Griffith University's Professor Mark von Itzstein nd his team at the Institute for Glycomics on the Gold Coast, heir findings could help in cracking the deadly bird flu code.

Prof von Itzstein, who conducted the research in collaboration ith an international project team at Hong Kong University's nstitut Pasteur led by Professor Malik Peiris, says that the evelopment will allow flu and drug specialists to study key urface proteins of the virus without risk of infection.

The scientists say that the risk is minimised through a method eveloped to insert the deadly bird flu's H5 protein into a safe ehicle called a 'virus-like particle'.

Prof von Itzstein said the reduced risk of spreading the nfection would let the virus to be studied in more laboratories round the world, chiefly in countries not exposed to the disease t present.

"Importing, transporting and studying a highly-contagious live irus has always held some level of inherent risk for research taff, the wider community and agricultural economy," News.com.au uoted him, as saying.

"There are particularly strict regulations in a country such as ustralia, in which the virus is not endemic.

"In the past this has restricted the ability of Australian esearchers and those of any country in which a disease is not ndemic, to base research programs within their own institutes," e added.

Prof von Itzstein further explained that the breakthrough could elp to "crack the code" of the deadly H5N1 avian influenza irus.

"To better interrogate a virus protein, researchers need to be ble to observe and monitor the way it functions when associated ith a virus particle," he said.

"It's similar to the way it would be difficult to work out how a un functions by only studying a bullet," he added.

He said that the H5N1 virus had developed to the point where it ould be transmitted from birds to humans, with evidence growing hat limited human-to-human transmission could also take place.

The study is published in the world's leading international hemistry journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition

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