New vaccine shows promise in providing lifetime protection against flu

Glen Mclaughlin
November 8, 2017

"The 2017 vaccine that people are getting now has the same H3N2 strain as the 2016 vaccine, so this could be another hard year if this season is dominated by H3N2 viruses again".

The vaccines effectiveness in mice is an encouraging sign, but a lot more testing needs to be done before it could become commercially available.

"The good news is that it's much more hard to drive mutations in the stalk, but it's not impossible", said David J. Topham, Ph.D., study author and the Marie Curran Wilson and Joseph Chamberlain Wilson Professor in the department of Microbiology and Immunology at URMC.

Because flu viruses mutate rapidly, researchers have found it hard to develop a flu vaccine with long-term protection.

In contrast, all of the mice that were given traditional flu shots got sick and died when exposed to the same lethal doses of flu.

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According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40 million Americans suffered from the flu in 2015-16, with 970,000 being hospitalized. Health units have started their vaccine campaigns urging people to get their flu shots.

A nurse vaccinates U.S. President Barack Obama against the H1N1 flu at the White House in 2009. The 2016-2017 seasonal flu vaccine was updated to include the new version of this protein; however, Hensley's lab found that the egg-grown version of this protein acquired a new mutation. It is believed to be the best protection against influenza and the complications that come with it kills about 1,400 people in B.C. each year, Gray said.

This is no easy task, and a study out today in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that one of the most promising strategies - creating a vaccine that targets the "stalk" of a protein that covers the flu virus - is a strong one, but isn't completely bulletproof. The eggs are then allowed to incubate, and in turn, this allows the virus to replicate. The shot stimulates immunity against a protein called hemagglutinin, which extends from the surface of the flu virus.

Flu vaccines aim to protect us by priming our immune systems. "Current H3N2 viruses do not grow well in chicken eggs, and it is impossible to grow these viruses in eggs without adaptive mutations", Hensley said.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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