A microalgae-derived supplement, which could help boost the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine, may be released onto the market as early as the beginning of 2004, according to its manufacturer Ocean Nutrition Canada (ONC).
ONC president Robert Orr said in a statement this week that the company was currently seeking collaborations with strong marketing partners to help bring RespondinT to the North American and global markets as quickly as possible.
In early September, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended influenza vaccination in high-risk groups and health workers caring for them, in order to reduce the number of pneumonia cases which could be confused with SARS.
The flu vaccine is considered moderately effective - in elderly persons cared for in institutions, it prevents 80 per cent of deaths, 50-60 per cent of hospitalizations or pneumonia and 30-40 per cent of influenza illnesses. But medical experts suggest that raising these numbers by increasing effectiveness of the vaccines could potentially help people avoid the risks and inconvenience associated with influenza and allow easier and earlier detection of more threatening conditions, thus easing the burden on the health care system.
ONC says it was with this in mind that it set out to develop RespondinT, a patented carbohydrate fraction from a unique strain of green microalgae, Chlorella pyrendoidosa. The substance belongs to a category of natural ingredients called Immune Response Modifiers ( IRM's), characterized by their ability to boost weak immune systems in times of immune stress, such as during influenza or the common cold. IRM's are also said to be able to calm overactive immune systems during conditions like allergy when the immune system is hyperactive.
In a recent double-blind, placebo controlled clinical trial conducted by Dr Scott Halperin, a researcher from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, RespondinT demonstrated biologic activity in elevating antibody levels associated with the influenza vaccine. The results of the trial appeared in the July 2003 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Halperin reported: "We have demonstrated an immuno-enhancing effect in a subset of human subjects after influenza vaccination, which corroborates the results of in vivo and in vitro preclinical studies... The supplement could potentially be used as an oral adjuvant."
The supplement was developed by researchers at Halifax, Nova Scotia-based ONC, a biotechnology company which focuses on identification, research and marketing naturally occurring marine based ingredients to improve human health.
"A natural ingredient with the capability to reduce one's risk of contracting a flu infection, or to reduce the duration and severity of an already existing infection is extremely compelling," said Dr Colin Barrow, executive director of research and development at Ocean Nutrition Canada.
Inquires may be directed to Nadine Mackay at Ocean Nutrition.