The rapidly mutating strains of flu virus have so far thwarted efforts to develop a vaccine that could knock out all varieties with a single injection, but recent advances suggest a synthetic solution.
The head of Mount Sinai School of Medicine‘s microbiology department explains
The annual jab fest for the seasonal flu is already underway, scaring needle-wary youngsters and leaving many grown-ups wondering if the annual stick in the arm is right for them.
In recent years research has shown that the mélange of strains in each year’s flu shot and exposure to previous flus can provide some immunity decades later to people exposed to closely related influenza iterations. For example, people who were born before the mid-1950s (when H1N1 stopped circulating)showed a better defense against the recent H1N1 virus. But because the virus is so adept at eluding the body’s immune system via mutation, many new varieties crop up each year. After its latest battle with H1N1, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention committee recommended in February that everyone six months and older get the annual vaccine, a step that should improve immunity against future pandemics as well as seasonal cycles of the flu.
The hunt for a universal flu vaccine, a single shot that would provide lifelong immunity, has been going on for decades, and many teams of researchers have been on the case. The effort is complicated because there are some 16 types of key surface proteins (hemagglutinin) that help the virus bind to host cells, in addition to the several varieties of viral neuraminidase proteins. (These proteins are what the “H” and “N” stand for in viral designations such as H1N1.) Flu vaccines work by introducing a killed version of circulating virus strains, which trains the body’s immune system to recognize and attack similar invaders in the future. Changes in the viruses’ proteins help it evade identification by the immune system.
The Latest Streaming News: Influenza Vaccine updated minute-by-minute