Flu Antibody Discovery Could Reduce Number of Lifelong Flu Shots, Study Says

If getting the flu shot is a yearly annoyance you’d like to eventually avoid, new information about flu antibodies- that could eventually make yearly flu vaccination a thing of the past- might be of interest to you.

Unlike most other common vaccinations, flu vaccines change from year to year and strain to strain, making broadly vaccinating the populace a bit more challenging. Each season, the vaccine needs to be hastily produced to fit scientists’ best guess about what flu strain may circulate, as Stephen C. Harrison, PhD, chief of the Division of Molecular Medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston explains in a press release about the new discovery:

“Developing a flu vaccine is currently a hit-or-miss enterprise. We vaccinate with a virus or part of a virus and hope that the immune response will evolve in a useful direction… But for viruses like influenza that mutate rapidly, we want to have a response that does a really good job at blocking both the strain of the virus in the vaccine and many related strains as well.”

Harrison led a a study posted last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that centered on the discovery of the new flu antibody, CH65. CH65 was effective at neutralizing 30 of 36 flu strains tested and, says Harrison, could lead to a more “broadly effective” flu shot:

“While it’s unusual to find such broadly effective antibodies to the flu virus, they may actually be more common than we realize. What this tells us is that the human immune system can fine-tune its response to the flu and actually produce, albeit at a low frequency, antibodies that neutralize a whole series of strains.”

Do you get a yearly flu shot? Do you opt for vaccination against additional strains, like H1N1?