Scientists make major progress toward a universal flu vaccine

Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., and the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson have made a discovery that may eventually eliminate the need for seasonal flu shots.

They examined a protein on the surface of influenza, called hemagglutinin, which plays a crucial role in influenza mutations, and created a vaccine candidate that would produce antibodies against the protein. They then tested this novel way of inducing antibodies in rodent and nonhuman primate models.

The researchers discovered that animals given one especially stable vaccine candidate produced antibodies that could fight a wide range of influenza subtypes — even neutralizing H5N1 viruses, which are best known for causing "avian" or "bird" flu.

Now that the researchers have proven that an immunogen can elicit antibodies against the hemagglutinin stem region, the next step in the research will be to examine what the immunogen can do in humans.

"This study shows that we're moving in the right direction for a universal flu vaccine," said Ian Wilson, PhD, TSRI Hansen Professor of Structural Biology and chair of the Department of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology. "While there is more work to be done, the ultimate goal, of course, would be to create a life-long vaccine."



More articles on the flu and vaccines:
Could flu someday be prevented without a vaccine?
Vaccine-resistant viral mutations in the flu identified: 3 things to know
Researchers: 2 new bird flu strains don't easily infect humans

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