The idea of having one single vaccine to protect against multiple strains of influenza just became more of a reality, thanks to a team of researchers at Mount Sinai Medical School, New York.
Their findings were published in the inaugural edition of mBio, the first online journal of the American Society of Microbiology.
Dr. Peter Palese, professor and chair of the Department of Microbiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and his team developed a vaccine that they hope will one day eliminate the necessity of having a seasonal flu shot.
Each seasonal outbreak of influenza has been strain specific, constantly mutating, making it necessary for scientists to create a vaccine to target that particular flu. Every year flu season presents a challenge for scientists and a race against time to create a vaccine. Flu vaccines currently target a molecule on the virus, which scientists have dubbed its “head,” the globular head of the hemaglutinin on the surface of the virus. It is this protein that evolves year to year, creating the need for a new vaccine every season.
Palese and his team worked on creating a vaccine without its globular head. In the new vaccine the antibodies targets the hemaglutinin protein that changes infrequently and is contained in a majority of flu strains.
In their study mice that were injected with the “headless” vaccine survived. If they get the same positive response during human trials, then it could well be the beginning of a universal influenza vaccine.
“Current influenza vaccines are effective against only a narrow range of influenza virus strains,” explains Palese. “This new vaccine brings us closer to our ultimate goal of a vaccine that protects against multiple strains.”
“Our results suggest that the response induced by this vaccine is potent enough to warrant further development toward a universal influenza virus vaccine,” continued Palese. “With further development and testing, we predict that a single immunization will in the future offer a sufficient defense against several influenza epidemics.”