New steps toward a universal flu vaccine

May 19, 2010

Researchers at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine have developed a novel influenza vaccine that could represent the next step towards a universal influenza vaccine eliminating the need for seasonal immunizations. They report their findings today in the inaugural issue of mBio, the first online, open-access journal published by the American Society for Microbiology.

"Current influenza vaccines are effective against only a narrow range of influenza virus strains. It is for this reason that new vaccines must be generated and administered each year. We now report progress toward the goal of an influenza virus vaccine which would protect against multiple strains," says Peter Palese, an author on the study.

The main reason the current seasonal vaccine is so strain-specific is that the antibodies it induces are targeted at the globular head of the hemaglutinin (HA) molecule on the surface of the influenza virus. This globular head is highly variable and constantly changing from strain to strain.

In this study the researchers constructed a vaccine using HA without its globular head. Mice immunized with the headless HA vaccine showed a broader, more robust than mice immunized with full-length HA, and that immune response was enough to protect them against a lethal viral challenge.

"Our results suggest that the response induced by headless HA vaccines is sufficiently potent to warrant their further development toward a universal influenza virus vaccine. Through further development and testing, we predict that a single immunization with a headless HA vaccine will offer effective protection through several influenza epidemics," says Palese.

In a related article, also appearing in the inaugural issue of mBio, Antonio Cassone of the Instituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy, and Rino Rappuoli of Vaccines and Diagnostics, Siena, Italy, comment on the research and movement in the future towards universal vaccines.

"Recent research demonstrating the possibility of protecting against all influenza A virus types or even phylogenetically distant pathogens with vaccines based on highly conserved peptide or saccharide sequences is changing our paradigm," they write. "Is the only disease that warrants approaches for universal vaccines? Clearly it is not."

They go on to note that a universal pneumococcal vaccine is already being discussed, as well as one for HIV. Universal vaccine strategies could also be used to protect against antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi for which no is currently available.

"There is now hope, sustained by knowledge and technology, for the generation of broadly protective universal vaccines restricted to species or groups of closely related pathogens," they write.

Explore further: US scientists make embryonic stem cells from adult skin

Provided by American Society for Microbiology

4 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Universal flu vaccine holds promise

Apr 27, 2009

An influenza vaccine that protects against death and serious complications from different strains of flu is a little closer to reality, Saint Louis University vaccine researchers have found.

Human trials of universal flu vaccine begin

Sep 08, 2008

Clinical trials of a new vaccine that could protect against multiple types of flu are beginning at Oxford University. If successful, the ‘universal’ flu injection would transform the way we vaccinate against ...

Bird flu vaccine protects people and pets

Oct 20, 2008

A single vaccine could be used to protect chickens, cats and humans against deadly flu pandemics, according to an article published in the November issue of the Journal of General Virology. The vaccine protects birds and ma ...

Recommended for you

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

New pain relief targets discovered

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

UAE reports 12 new cases of MERS

Health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have announced 12 new cases of infection by the MERS coronavirus, but insisted the patients would be cured within two weeks.

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...