Scientists have moved closer to developing a universal flu vaccine by using the 2009 pandemic to study why some people seem to resist severe illness.
Researchers at Imperial College London asked volunteers to donate blood samples just as the swine flu pandemic was getting underway and report any symptoms they experienced over the next two flu seasons.
They found that those who avoided severe illness had more CD8 T cells, a type of virus-killing immune cell, in their blood at the start of the pandemic.
They believe a vaccine that stimulates the body to produce more of these cells could be effective at preventing flu viruses, including new strains that cross into humans from birds and pigs, from causing serious disease.
The findings are published in Nature Medicine.
Professor Ajit Lalvanifrom the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, who led the study, said: “New strains of flu are continuously emerging, some of which are deadly, and so the Holy Grail is to create a universal vaccine that would be effective against all strains of flu.”
Today’s flu vaccines make the immune system produce antibodies that recognise structures on the surface of the virus to prevent infection with the most prevalent circulating strains. But they are usually one step behind as they have to be changed each year as new viruses with different surface structures evolve.
Previously, experimental models had suggested that T cells may protect against flu symptoms but until now this idea has not been tested in humans during a pandemic.
Professor Lalvani’s team rapidly recruited 342 staff and students at Imperial to take part in their study in autumn 2009. The volunteers donated blood samples and were given nasal swabs. They were sent emails every three weeks asking them to fill in a survey about their health. If they experienced flu symptoms, they took a nasal swab and sent it back to the lab.
They found that those who fell more severely ill with flu had fewer CD8 T cells in their blood, and those who caught flu but had no symptoms or only mild symptoms had more of these cells.
Professor Lalvani said, “The immune system produces these CD8 T cells in response to usual seasonal flu. Unlike antibodies, they target the core of the virus, which doesn’t change, even in new pandemic strains. The 2009 pandemic provided a unique natural experiment to test whether T cells could recognise, and protect us against, new strains that we haven’t encountered before and to which we lack antibodies.
“Our findings suggest that by making the body produce more of this specific type of CD8 T cell, you can protect people against symptomatic illness. This provides the blueprint for developing a universal flu vaccine.
The Latest on: Universal flu vaccine
- More effective flu vaccine a matter of when, not ifon August 12, 2019 at 5:54 pm
A better, more effective flu vaccine is a matter of when — not if — says Dr. Gregory Poland, director of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. The National Institutes of Health is testing an ...
- Vaxart Announces Second Quarter 2019 Financial Results and Provides Corporate Updateon August 8, 2019 at 1:09 pm
Vaxart Announces Second Quarter 2019 Financial Results and Provides Corporate Update - Phase 1b Bivalent Norovirus Study Fully Enrolled- - Research Collaboration with Janssen for Universal Flu Vaccine ...
- Universal and more effective flu vaccine the goal of new researchon August 8, 2019 at 7:01 am
Melbourne scientists are working to develop a more effective flu vaccine for kids by uncovering how the virus affects the immune system of young people. With new research showing influenza can ...
- Blue Water Vaccines, Developing Universal Flu Vaccine, to Partner With Ology Bioservices Inc.on August 7, 2019 at 3:32 pm
CINCINNATI, Aug. 7, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Blue Water Vaccines, a Cincinnati-based biotechnology startup, has signed an agreement with Ology Bioservices, Inc. to manufacture a novel universal ...
- Veterinary researchers awarded $3.1 million to develop universal flu vaccineon August 6, 2019 at 2:06 pm
While the current seasonal flu shot aims to protect against the most prominent strains of flu for the year, researchers at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine are attempting to do the ...
- Infectious disease A-Z: Will there be a universal flu vaccine?on July 31, 2019 at 10:12 am
A better, more effective flu vaccine is a matter of when—not if—says Dr. Gregory Poland, director of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. The National Institutes of Health is testing an experimental ...
- Science, big pharma, and why we don't have a universal flu shot yeton July 27, 2019 at 7:01 am
Which raises the question: why do we continue to fail? The answer, experts say: because it’s harder to make a universal flu vaccine than it is to put a person on the moon. Ten years ago, University of ...
- Hillel's Tech Corner: Revolutionizing the flu shoton July 25, 2019 at 1:03 pm
A universal flu vaccine is the key to combating the ever-mutating flu virus, but did we ever really stop to think about whether there is a better way? The flu virus, or influenza, is far more than a ...
- A universal flu vaccine could finally be within sighton June 20, 2019 at 5:57 pm
Influenza is a shape-shifter virus that could spark a global pandemic. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health are working to deliver what is referred to as The Holy Grail in the fight: a ...
- Scientists 'on the right track' toward universal flu vaccineon June 4, 2019 at 8:19 am
A research study into influenza virus transmission has offered new insights into the antibodies and immune responses that may protect against the influenza virus. The research could bring scientists a ...
via Google News and Bing News