Ethnic background a factor in patient response to flu vaccine, study suggests

A key gene that generates influenza antibodies and helps ward off the flu is influenced by individuals' ethnic backgrounds, according to findings published in Scientific Reports.

Researchers from the Boston-based Dana-Farber Cancer Institute studied blood samples from individuals who received a flu vaccine in 2007 and found their respective immune responses to flu varied significantly based on how which variant of IGHV1-69, the antibody-making gene in question, were present and how many copies of it they had.

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Variations in IGHV1-69 differ dramatically across three broad ethnic groups: Africans, Asians and Europeans. Additionally, the gene itself exists in many different forms and some versions are more effective than others. Other unknown genes are also at play when it comes to vaccine effectiveness, according to the researchers, which is one reason there are no 100 percent effective vaccines as of yet.

Wayne Marasco, MD, PhD, lead researcher involved with the study, said that the findings will help efforts to develop universal vaccines that would provide multi-year protection against multiple flu strains.   

"This will change our understanding of how to achieve universal vaccine responsiveness in a population," Dr. Marasco said in a statement

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