Vietnam to Begin Testing VIRA 38 Against Avian Influenza


HANOI, Vietnam -- PRB Pharmaceuticals and Lee's Pharmaceuticals announced today that Vietnam's Department of Animal Health will begin testing an animal version of VIRA 38 on their poultry flocks as part of a multi-national, avian influenza research collaboration.  Other members of the group include laboratories and clinics at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, The Prince of Wales Hospital (Hong Kong), and Mahidol University (Thailand).


"Our collaboration with PRB Pharmaceuticals is headed by Dr. To Long Thanh

and is part of Vietnam's continued effort to bring avian influenza under control," said Dr. Bui Quang Anh, director-general of the Department of Animal Health, Vietnam.


The announcement comes amid new concerns that migratory birds will spread the lethal H5N1 virus to poultry and humans, triggering a worldwide influenza pandemic.


"The massive infection and death of migratory birds at China's Qinghai Lake and the emergence of new H5N1 strains is cause for concern," said Dr. Charles Hensley, chairman and CEO of PRB Pharmaceuticals.  "The H5N1 virus is gaining momentum and the migratory bird, poultry, human axis is driving the evolution of this virus toward the development of a pandemic strain.  A comprehensive approach targeting each component of this axis is desperately needed."


"The nightmare scenario is that new H5N1 variants will emerge that are not only highly contagious in humans but also resistant to existing anti-viral drugs," added Dr. Benjamin Li, CEO of Lee's Pharmaceuticals.  "Viral resistance is most likely to occur when a drug targets a single point of the viral life cycle.  The H5N1 virus is already resistant to amantadine and the World Health Organization has reported oseltamivir (Tamiflu) resistance in Northern Vietnam."


"Our approach is to attack the virus at multiple points of its life cycle. This results in greater efficacy and reduces the likelihood of the virus developing resistance," added Hensley.  "A crucial component of our research program is the testing of VIRA 38 and its fractions against the H5N1 variants emerging in China and Vietnam as well as those showing resistance to oseltamivir (Tamiflu)."


VIRA 38 first gained notoriety during the Taiwan SARS outbreak when it was used by the Taiwan presidential staff and doctors at Sungshan Hospital (SARS management facility) and again in 2004 when it was found to inhibit H5N1 infections.


VIRA 38, PRB Pharmaceuticals' over-the-counter broad spectrum anti-viral medication, is known for its effectiveness in treating and preventing influenza.  VIRA 38 has recently been shown to contain compounds that inhibit a variety of pathogens including the bird flu (H5N1) virus.


Source: PRB Pharmaceuticals and Lee's Pharmaceuticals


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