Closing in on a universal Flu Vaccine
With the debate between people in the medical world and anti-vaxxers gaining so much attention in the past couple of months, this bit of news might come to only add more fuel to the fire. Two separate studies published in medical journals are claiming that we are very close of having an universal flu vaccine, after successfully trying it on animals.
Both scientific journals “Science” and “Nature Medicine” have presented separate studies with very similar findings. In spite of vaccination campaigns, which each day involve more people, there are many people who, year after year, they have to go to bed with a flu infection. The problem that causes this is that the virus changes frequently and, although the vaccines also do so, there is no adequate protection. Two groups of researchers have developed a strategy for achieving an immunization for all strains of the virus that causes the disease.
As the influenza virus has a high capacity to mutate, there is a global monitoring system to detect the strain that is circulating on the southern half of the planet, for which the pharmaceutical companies adapt their vaccines against this variant of the virus. Sometimes, however, as weeks go, the virus mutates and the vaccine prepared is not entirely effective against it, so it does not protect enough, therefore people still get the flu.
To reach these results, the researchers on both studies created molecules that are able to imitate that conserved region of the haemagglutinin (One of the protein that surrounds the virus). After being injected in a healthy organism, the body will create antibodies that will work against that area if the virus reaches the system. And, at the same time against the viruses that arrive in the future. The effectiveness of this approach has been tested in mice, ferrets and monkeys in different occasions with very large percentages of success.
According to representatives of both studies it is very difficult for the virus to scape the antibodies that attack the haemagglutinin. This protein allows the virus infect healthy cells in our body. The next step for this research is the final stage: Testing on human patients and check for possible side effects. Should these tests have the overall same positive results as their initial tests, we could very well be on the verge of finally having a vaccine that virtually universally work against the influenza virus. But we still have to wait for the results.