Washington, D.C. – National Institutes of Health Chief Francis Collins hinted that a universal flu vaccine that provides protection against all strains may be available within the next five years.
Scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is a part of the NIH, have conducted experiments on the universal vaccine on mice, ferrets and monkey. They used a two-step immunization approach to elicit antibodies that would fight infection (Snip) The current flu vaccines could not generate broad neutralizing antibodies, which is why the shots are reformulated yearly to match the predominant virus strain circulating each year.
The NIAID primed the experimental animals’ immune system using a vaccine made from DNA that encoded the influenza virus hemagglutinin surface protein. The lab animals then are given a booster dose of the 2006-2007 seasonal flu vaccine or a vaccine made from a weakened cold virus, which has HA flu protein.
the prime-boost vaccine stimulated an immune response to the stem of the HA of influenza virus, which is shaped like a lollipop. Unlike the HA head which mutates readily, which allows the virus to become unrecognizable to antibodies, the stem does not differ much from strain to strain.
by designing a vaccine to go after the constant part of the flu virus, people would be protected against all of its strains.
There are ongoing human trails of the prime-boost influenza vaccines to study its safety and ability to generate immune responses being made by NIAID. Similar trials on humans have been made by researchers in the United Kingdom.
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