H1N1 discovery could lead to development of universal flu vaccines

   May 8, 4:26 pm

Washington, May 8 (ANI): Researchers at the University of British Columbia have found a potential way to develop universal flu vaccines and eliminate the need for seasonal flu vaccinations.

Each year, seasonal influenza causes serious illnesses in three to five million people and 200,000 to 500,000 deaths.

The 2009 H1N1 pandemic killed more than 14,000 people worldwide. Meanwhile, public health and bioterrorism concerns are heightened by new mutations of the H5N1 "bird flu" virus, published last week by the journal Nature, which could facilitate infection among mammals and humans.

The research team, led by Prof. John Schrader, Canada Research Chair in Immunology and director of UBC's Biomedical Research Centre, found that the 2009 H1N1 "swine flu" vaccine triggers antibodies that protect against many influenza viruses, including the lethal avian H5N1 "bird flu" strain.

"The flu virus has a protein called hemagglutinin, or HA for short. This protein is like a flower with a head and a stem," explained Schrader, a professor in Medicine and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

"The flu virus binds to human cells via the head of the HA, much like a socket and plug.

"Current flu vaccines target the head of the HA to prevent infections, but because the flu virus mutates very quickly, this part of the HA changes rapidly, hence the need for different vaccines every flu season," he said.

Vaccines contain bits of weak or dead germs that prompt the human immune system to produce antibodies that circulate in the blood to kill those specific germs. However, the research team found that the 2009 pandemic H1N1 vaccine induced broadly protective antibodies capable of fighting different variants of the flu virus.

"This is because, rather than attacking the variable head of the HA, the antibodies attacked the stem of the HA, neutralizing the flu virus. The stem plays such an integral role in penetrating the cell that it cannot change between different variants of the flu virus," stated Schrader.

The new discovery could pave the way to developing universal flu vaccines.

Schrader stressed that the characteristics of the human immune system make it difficult for influenza vaccines to induce broadly protective antibodies against the HA stem.

"The pandemic H1N1 swine flu was different, because humans had not been exposed to a similar virus," he added.

Schrader has evidence that a vaccine based on a mixture of influenza viruses not circulating in humans but in animals should have the same effect and potentially make influenza pandemics and seasonal influenza a thing of the past.

Details of their study are published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology. (ANI)

Dogs more dependent on owners than wolves Sep 2, 3:22 pm
Washington, Sept 2 (ANI): A new study has observed that dogs act dumb and are more dependent on their human owner whereas wolves cooperate with each other to solve their problems.
Full Story
Why 'blind' bats never collide while flying at night Sep 2, 1:54 pm
Washington, Sept 2 (ANI): A new study has showed that bats emit "echolocation sounds" and they are equipped with a spatial map that represents different echo delays that helps them to adapt to external factors.
Full Story
Indian students successfully build first low cost 3-D printer Sep 2, 1:20 pm
New Delhi, September 2 (ANI): A group of engineering students have successfully built and tested their first low cost 3-D printer.
Full Story
United Nations' 'reports from future' predicts climate hell by 2050 Sep 2, 11:55 am
London, Sep 02 (ANI): United Nation recent initiative called 'weather reports from the future' predicted the disastrous climate change by 2050 with imagined weather forecasts.
Full Story
Comments

LATEST STORIES
TOP VIDEO STORIES
PHOTO GALLERY