Published: Wed, November 08, 2017
Medicine | By Rogelio Lindsey

Lifelong Protection Against Flu? New Vaccine Shows Promise

Lifelong Protection Against Flu? New Vaccine Shows Promise

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

Scientists are working to make annual flu shots a thing of the past with a universal flu vaccine that would protect against most or all seasonal and pandemic strains.

"We need to get away from the antiquated production model, which the egg is", said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Health units have started their vaccine campaigns urging people to get their flu shots. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, vaccines are updated annually to keep up with the changing viruses.

"It is important for high-risk individuals with health problems, elderly, or babies under six months old, to avoid public events and crowds in order to decrease exposure to the virus", Carrillo emphasized. The 2016-2017 vaccine was only 43 percent effective against the predominant influenza A H3N2 strain, and protection has been nearly as low in other years.

The egg method allows for large-scale manufacturing but is unreliable. This limits the spread of the virus. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine said the H3N2 strain left the vaccine only 20-30 percent effective.

Experts worry it could be a hard season if H3N2 dominates. The 2016-2017 vaccine included a clade 3C.2a H3N2 strain, but the egg-adapted version of the viral strain lacked the new site. When we're exposed to the proteins that form the outer layer of a killed flu virus, we generate antibodies that are ready to attack flu viruses whenever they reappear.

"To put this in other terms, our current influenza vaccine programs and technologies reduce influenza infections and hospitalizations by 4.75 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively", Weaver said.

However, as the study was done on mice, more research needs to be conducted to determine if the vaccine works in human. It takes two weeks for the flu vaccine to reach maximum protection. That's because current H3N2 viruses "don't grow well in chicken eggs, and it is impossible to grow these viruses in eggs without adaptive mutations", Scott Hensley, Ph.D., an associate professor of microbiology at Penn, said in a statement.

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