A Universal Flu Vaccine Could Be On The Way
During the late summer months influenza hunters visit hot zones where viruses are known to breed exponentially. Areas like these are ideal for collecting data and samples that can be used to create the next seasonal flu vaccine. However, researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have developed a universal vaccines that has the potential to protect against a broad range of influenza strains. "The reason researchers change the vaccine every year is that they want to specifically match the vaccine to the particular viruses that are circulating, such as H1N1. If the vaccine is just a little bit different to the target virus, it is not expected to offer much protection," explained senior author Jeffery Taubenberger, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Viral Pathogenesis and Evolution Section, Laboratory of Infectious Diseases at NIAID, in GEN News. This study used a new approach that focused on hemagglutinin and expressing its subtypes. Taubenbergers hypothesis was that if they were able to present the different proteins, a cross-protective immunity would develop and give greater protection against multiple strains of the flu. They chose to work with subtypes H1, H3, H5 and H7 as they have had the greatest loss of life and the greatest potential to spread from birds to humans respectively. "Almost all of the animals that were vaccinated survived, including mice that were challenged with viruses that expressed hemagglutinin subtypes that were not in the vaccine at all, viruses that expressed H2, H6, H10, and H11," noted Dr. Taubenberger. "What that suggests is that this approach really gives us broad spectrum protection, and could serve as a basis for an effective pre-pandemic vaccine."