Oral Flu Vaccine On the Horizon?

Results from a new study have suggested that an oral flu vaccine may be more effective than traditional shots in prevention of the seasonal flu.

Researchers at the International Vaccine Institute in Korea found that administering a certain flu antigen called matrix protein 2 (M2) beneath the tongue of mice stopped them from getting different strains of the flu virus, including avian flu and swine flu, ABC news reported.

Although flu virus strains change yearly, researchers have discovered that the M2 protein remains the same in most of viruses – suggesting that the protein might hold the key to developing a universal vaccine – and thus have begun administering in the injectable form of the flu vaccine as well.

Regardless of M2’s over all effectiveness in both forms (oral or injection), researchers wrote in the journal PLoS ONE that the protein does not boost lung immunity in the shot the way it does in the experimental oral vaccine.

“It’s a fascinating concept in part because this appears to be a valid phenomenon, at least in mice,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Why it is the oral as opposed to the injection that works is a mystery.”

Despite the mysteries that the M2 protein poses, the IVI research team hopes to translate the recent study’s findings to human and help develop a universal flu vaccine that provides strong protection against almost all forms of flu.

“Clearly, if these promising findings obtained in laboratory animals can be reproduced in humans, they will represent a major milestone in the [International Vaccine Institute’s research and development] agenda,” Deputy Director-General for Laboratory Sciences Dr. Cecil Czerkinsky said in a news release published on Medical News Today.