La Jolla, CA – A universal flu vaccine could be on the way to becoming a reality after researchers in California made headway in preventive measures in flu protection.
The universal flu vaccine discovery could pave the way for more comprehensive flu protections,and even eventually reduce the need for a yearly flu shot.
The findings come from researchers at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla and Crucell Vaccine Institute in the Netherlands and concern an antibody discovered in humans that could lead to protection against strains of influenza A and B. In part, the discovery means that a new sort of protection — one that has never been developed before — effective after the flu has been contracted could eventually be a possibility.
Study senior investigator Ian A. Wilson is a professor of structural biology at Scripps Research, and he explains:
“To develop a truly universal flu vaccine or therapy, one needs to be able to provide protection against influenza A and influenza B viruses… With this report, we now have broadly neutralizing antibodies against both.”
Dr. William Schaffner is professor and chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, and he commented on the challenge faced in battling a number of flu strains and the usefulness of a universal flu vaccine:
“The Holy Grail of influenza research is to find a mechanism to protect people against essentially all the numerous different strains of influenza viruses… This research is a heartening step forward.”
Dr. Gregory A. Poland is a professor of medicine, infectious diseases, molecular pharmacology, and experimental therapeutics at the Mayo Clinic and Foundation. Poland describes how the finding could lead to protection for people who are outside the population that can benefit directly from the current flu vaccine. He says that a universal flu vaccine could provide a useful form of treatment for these vulnerable patients:
“If this is true, it is big news in that it allows us to protect those too young or old to benefit from flu vaccines, and those immunocompromised from a large variety of illnesses that don’t allow them to respond to vaccines.”
“Understanding the structure of these antibodies could allow us to engineer and design vaccines that produce these same antibodies in the human body and, thereby, protect against influenza… More importantly, it could allow development of so-called ‘universal’ flu vaccines that would protect against all flu strains.”
The universal flu vaccine findings were published this week in the journal Science.