Scripps Research Institute Scientists Close to Creating a Once and for All Flu Shot

Vaccination is perhaps the most significant innovation in the world for preventing the occurrence of infectious diseases. It involves priming a host’s immune system by introducing them to antigenic materials in bits, whole or weakened form. Influenza is one of the numerous diseases that are highly preventable via the use of vaccines. Apart from immunity gotten after the administration of the vaccine, the body can readily produce antibodies against the flu. The problem is that these viruses outlive the antibodies tailor-made for them by the system because they can easily mutate. The CDC reports there are up to 2000 strains of the influenza virus.

Person With The Flu

Person With The Flu

This in essence means that both vaccination and the body cannot keep up with the rate of this mutation.

Read Also: Flurona Latest Facts: The Coinfection with Both Influenza and Coronavirus Can Be Prevented with the Addition of the Flu Vaccine

Say goodbye to annual flu shots

Recently, scientists at Scripps Research, University, and Icahn School of Medicine discovered a weakness in the ‘influenza armor’–new antibodies developed against a previously unimportant section of the virus –the anchor–can recognize a vast array of influenza strains. Perhaps, we can keep up the pace with the frequently mutating flu virus.

One of the senior researchers, Andrew Ward, Ph.D., professor of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology at Scripps Research, described the new invention as an exciting prospect as it will facilitate the production of more effective and broad-spectrum vaccines. It gets better! It means that if we look closer we might also discover more loopholes we never knew were there. Loopholes that will help us better eradicate the flu for good, if possible.

Dr. Patrick Wilson, another senior researcher leading the research said, “By identifying sites of vulnerability to antibodies that are shared by large numbers of variant influenza strains we can design vaccines that are less affected by viral mutations… the anchor antibodies we describe bind to such a site. The antibodies themselves can also be developed as drugs with broad therapeutic applications.”

Read Also: Influenza: A Universal Flu Vaccine Successfully Completes Phase I Trial

The influenza virus has two main surface antigens, hemagglutinin, and neuraminidase. Most vaccines prime the body system to produce antibodies against the head region of hemagglutinin. This preference for the head of hemagglutinin is chiefly because they are the most accessible antigens. Sadly the head of hemagglutinin is the most variable and mutates so often that new vaccines have to be produced every now and then to keep up with the pace of mutation.

To overcome this hurdle, the scientists started to work on a vaccine that triggered antibodies against the less variable stem region of HA. Furthermore, the scientists collected and grouped about 358 antibodies seen in the blood of people in the phase 1 trial, or who had contracted flu or were vaccinated for influenza. Of the new antibodies garnered, the ones against the bottom of the virion [the anchor] were truly remarkable as they recognized a host of influenza viruses like the H1 seasonal flu strains, the pandemic H2 and H5 strains, etc.

Clinical significance

The benefits of this new line of vaccines are unprecedented. For one, it could cut the cost of frequently engineering new vaccines for novel influenza virus strains. Furthermore, it could also cut back on the number of flu shots one gets. Just one flu shot can address the virus. This way, we can keep up with the pace of mutation. Not only has the discovery addressed the issue of mutation but it has also given us a glimpse of what we could uncover if we look deeper into viral structures.

Read Also: Should We Let Omicron Spread to Overtake the Other More Lethal Variants? What Do the Scientists Say?

Conclusion

According to CDC reports, influenza has caused about 9–41 million illnesses between 2010 and 2020 and 12,000-52,000 deaths annually. This new prospect can offer the world a drastic reduction in this number. A world without the flu is looking less and less like a daydream and more like an achievable reality.

References

Broadly neutralizing antibodies target a hemagglutinin anchor epitope

How Flu Viruses Can Change: “Drift” and “Shift” | CDC

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