A one-size-fits-all flu vaccine could be on the horizon after scientists found an antibody that protects against several strains of the virus. The team from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine identified a class of antibodies previously unrecognized that can neutralize different forms of flu.
Flu vaccines are inactivated or weakened viral strains injected into the body to trigger an immune response. This response “prepares” your body to fight actual flu viruses, potentially preventing or lessening the severity of illness if you encounter them.
At the moment the most dominant strain is predicted and a vaccine is produced to protect against it but the new breakthrough could see an end to that. Antibodies are immune system proteins that protect against disease and a vaccine prompts the immune system to make them.
The antibodies bind to a viral protein called hemagglutinin on the outside of an invading flu virus, blocking it from entering a person’s cells. But different antibodies bind to different parts of hemagglutinin which itself evolves over time, leading to new strains that outwit old antibodies. Two flu subtypes known as H1 and H3 come in multiple strains and scientists have been focused on these to produce a universal vaccine.
The current study found that although some antibodies were effective against H1 and H3, they failed if the hemagglutinin is carrying what they call the 133a insertion. The team, writing in the journal PLOS Biology, says they have found the new antibodies that can neutralize H1 and H3 whether they have the 133a insertion or not. They carried out their experiments on blood taken from patients.
“We need annual influenza virus vaccines to keep pace with continuing viral evolution. Our work suggests that the barriers to eliciting more broadly protective immunity may be surprisingly low,” said Lead author and research assistant Holly Simmons.
“Given the right series of influenza virus exposures/vaccinations, it is possible to for humans to mount robust antibody responses that neutralize divergent H1N1 and H3N2 viruses, opening new avenues to design improved vaccines,” she added.
“This research expands the list of antibodies that could potentially contribute to development of a flu virus that achieves broader protection through an assortment of molecular mechanisms,” she continued.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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