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Universal Flu Vaccine a Closer Reality

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Last month scientists from Rice University presented a computerized method to help health officials identify safe and effective flu vaccines to protect against flu viruses containing multiple strains of influenza. At that time, the focus was on Avian flu, expected to mutate. Now a universal flu vaccine is a closer reality, with much groundwork having been laid.

Michael Deem, lead scientist on the flu vaccine project presented findings at March 19 at the American Physical Society's 2009 meeting in Pittsburgh. Dr. Deem wrote, "Oftentimes, bird flu seems to emerge with multiple strains, and something similar can happen with newly released or evolved strains of seasonal flu as well."(1)

February 2, 2009, more headway was made toward developing a flu vaccine that uses monoclonal antibodies. Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), in response to the flu vaccine development said, “In the event of an influenza pandemic, human monoclonal antibodies could be an important adjunct to antiviral drugs to contain the outbreak until a vaccine becomes available.” (2)

In 2007, researchers from Belgium also began work on a universal flu vaccine, recognizing that flu viruses mutate regularly. The vaccine was effective for all types of influenza A, laying more groundwork for a universal flu vaccine, which was undergoing testing on humans. (3)

Now scientists are closer than ever to developing a universal flu vaccine. Saint Louis University vaccine researchers have developed a universal flu vaccine made with proteins from strains of influenza viruses A and B. The vaccine, tested on 377 healthy adults were given three doses of Bivalent Influenza Peptide Conjugate Vaccine (BIPCV), over a period of three months.

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According to Robert Belshe, M.D., director of the Saint Louis University Center for Vaccine Development, the antibody response seen with the flu vaccine is “a significant first step in developing a universal vaccine to help protect against pandemic influenza."

The researchers found that low doses of the universal flu vaccine are safe. The researchers say more testing is needed, but the results of the universal flu vaccine look promising. The findings were presented April 27 at the National Foundation for Infectious Disease Conference for Vaccine Research in Baltimore.

Conjugate Vaccine (BIPCV), produced high levels of antibody titers that can potentially protect from serious illness associated with flu, making a universal flu vaccine a closer reality.

Watch a video about flu viruses and monoclonal antibodies:

1) http://www.media.rice.edu/media/NewsBot.asp?MODE=VIEW&ID=12306&SnID=162307496

(2) http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/news/newsreleases/2009/flu_mab.htm

(3) http://www.vib.be/NR/rdonlyres/5DAAC4D3-F6F0-41A9-80CC-DFE4ECA035D8/0/05082005AcambisinfluenzaENG.pdf