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Egypt begins production on bird flu vaccine

The National Research Centre (NRC) Cairo has announced that Egypt has begun producing its own vaccine in order to combat the bird flu epidemic that has plagued the country in recent years

Close to 60 million birds had to be culled after the virus hit Egypt in February 2006, which led to rising costs for poultry farmers.

NRC president Ashraf Shaalan said, "The vaccine found by the Egyptian research team is appropriate for the type of virus hitting local poultry and could be updated to meet the mutation of the virus, according to its genetic properties."

He stressed that the new vaccine was produced by a technology based on genetic engineering to improve the immunity of local birds against the virus carried by migrating birds.

The government has been importing vaccines at a high price to fight the national problem, but the new vaccine would soon be available in the local market at EGP 305 (US$50) for 100 doses.

Due to a different strain of virus, the imported vaccine had a low efficacy rate ranging from 20-25 per cent.

The vaccine produced by the NRC research team has proved its effectiveness, reaching 95 per cent, official reports have revealed. It has been patented and recorded at the world genetic bank.

Egypt needs to produce nearly one billion doses per year to combat H5N1. The government-owned Vaccine Veterinary Institute and the private company Me Vac have been contracted to manufacture the vaccine on an industrial scale.

Around two million people are employed in the Egyptian poultry industry. Following a long period of neglect, the Egyptian government has given an assurance that it will pay more attention to scientific research in the sector.

Egypt heads the list of global avian deaths due to the H5N1 infection, followed by Indonesia and Vietnam.