Published: Wed, November 08, 2017
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Doctors blame mutation for lack of efficiency in flu vaccine

Doctors blame mutation for lack of efficiency in flu vaccine

Without the mutation, the flu virus will not grow unless they mutate, explained lead researcher and associate professor of microbiology at Perelman School of Medicine University of Pennsylvania Scott Hensley. The results show these broadly protective vaccine candidates are even more effective in hosts with pre-existing anti-influenza immunity, which bodes well for the use of these vaccines in people.

"Our experiments suggest that influenza virus antigens grown in systems other than eggs are more likely to elicit protective antibody responses against H3N2 viruses that are now circulating", Hensley said. That may allow for year-round manufacturing of the vaccine, as manufacturers would not have to halt production every year while the most prevalent strains are being identified by the health authorities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 40 million Americans contracted influenza during the 2015-16 flu season and 970,000 people were hospitalized for the ailment. "The 2017 vaccine that people are getting now has the same H3N2 strain as the 2016 vaccine, so this could be another hard year if this season is dominated by H3N2 viruses again".

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Because flu viruses mutate rapidly, researchers have found it hard to develop a flu vaccine with long-term protection. Traditional flu shot basically contains feeble and dead version of flu viruses.

The hemagglutinin protein, which blankets the outside of the flu virus, looks a bit like a flower; it has a stalk (think stem) and a head (think petals). "There is no doubt that there is a need for more effective vaccine technologies".

Excuse #1: I got the flu vaccine last year, so I should still be immune this year.

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The study was published yesterday (Nov. 2) in the journal Scientific Reports. He and his colleagues made a decision to try a similar concept with the influenza virus, synthesizing genes that are central to influenza's phylogenetic tree.

The scientists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln studied four major flu strains- H1, H2, H3, and H5. The vaccine is no longer capable of causing cold symptoms, but is still able to safely deliver the influenza vaccine genes.

With viral strains adapting on a yearly basis, vaccine makers are left to predict not only how they will evolve, but how likely they are to produce an outbreak and at what point in the year.

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Weaver's research is funded by a National Institutes of Health grant.

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