Fluturistic: Scientists create a super flu vaccine that can fight 20 strains and uses Covid mRNA technology
- The vaccine stimulates the body to produce antibodies to the 20 known types of flu.
- It could ‘significantly reduce the chances of getting a serious flu infection’
- The injection has shown promising results in ferrets, and humans will be tested next.
Scientists have created a super vaccine that can fight all known strains of flu and uses the same technology used in Covid injections.
The experimental vaccine, which has not yet been tested in people, offered broad protection against 20 influenza A and B subtypes in animal tests.
Delivered in two injections, it uses mRNA technology pioneered during the pandemic in Moderna and Pfizer’s Covid vaccines.
It works by delivering instructions that teach cells to make replicas of proteins that appear on all surfaces of the influenza virus.
This trains the body to remember how to recognize and fight any foreign invaders carrying this protein in the future.
The hope is that the universal vaccine will give people a baseline level of immunity that will reduce hospitalizations and deaths each year.
It would also take the guesswork out of developing annual vaccines months before flu season each year.
Currently, the vaccine is decided based on: which flu viruses are making people sick before the next flu season; how far those viruses are spreading; and how well equipped the body is to deal with those flu viruses based on last season’s vaccine.
It comes amid the biggest flu outbreak in the US in more than a decade that is overwhelming hospitals and closing schools across the country.
The H3N2 strain is currently wreaking havoc and tends to affect the elderly and the very young the most.
So far, there is no vaccine for H3N2 infection. Scientists have made some moves to start developing a vaccine, but there is no consensus to mass-produce one, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The vaccine contains genetic coding instructions for all 20 known influenza subtypes. When injected into the body, the cells will produce replicas of the proteins that appear in each type of flu. These trigger an immune response in which the body creates and remembers antibodies for each flu subtype. The immune response can be recovered if the body encounters flu in the future.
While the new vaccine could stop future flu pandemics, it would not be a silver bullet, since it would reduce severe illness and death, but would not fully prevent infections.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have only tested the vaccine in mice and ferrets, but are currently designing human trials.
They found that vaccine-induced antibody levels remained unchanged for at least four months in the animals tested, the researchers found.
‘I’ve never seen anything like this’: Doctors warn US is running out of FOUR antibiotics and flu drugs for children as children bear the brunt of ‘triple epidemic’
The United States is running out of four key antibiotics and respiratory drugs for children as seasonal bugs make a comeback after being suppressed during lockdowns.
Health officials have declared a shortage of amoxicillin, a vital antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections such as pneumonia, respiratory infections and strep throat.
But doctors on the ground are also reporting declining stocks of Augmentin, an antibiotic drug that uses amoxicillin along with clavulanic acid, Tamiflu, the most widely used flu drug in US hospitals, and albuterol, a inhaler for asthma and to relieve other lung symptoms.
Desperate parents report spending hours going from pharmacy to pharmacy to locate medications for their children.
The shortage is being driven by increased demand. Several children’s hospitals have already reached 100 percent capacity as rates of RSV and flu, which are deadly for children, reach their highest level in a decade for this time of year.
The study’s lead author, Dr Scott Hensley, a professor of microbiology at the university, said: “The idea here is to have a vaccine that gives people a baseline level of immunological memory for various strains of flu, so there’s far fewer illnesses and deaths.” when the next flu pandemic occurs.’
He added: “We believe this vaccine could significantly reduce the chances of getting a serious flu infection.”
The new jab uses part of a genetic code called mRNA, which instructs cells so they can create replicas of the so-called hemagglutinin proteins that appear on the surfaces of influenza viruses.
These stimulate an immune response in which the body makes and remembers antibodies to each flu virus.
Current flu vaccines cannot do this, because they rely on a small physical part of the weakened flu strain.
The vaccine is not expected to completely stop flu infections, but it will reduce the chances of severe illness and death from new variants of the virus.
And it means that people will be effectively immunized against 20 types of flu at one time.
The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccines are mRNA shots, a little-used technology before its introduction into the mainstream during the pandemic.
Víctor Jiménez Cid, professor in the department of microbiology and parasitology at the faculty of pharmacy at the Complutense University of Madrid, said: “This is the first high-impact publication presenting a successful strategy for a ‘universal’ mRNA-based vaccine against influenza”. ‘
He added: “This type of vaccine would therefore prevent, in addition to seasonal influenza…potential new emerging pandemic viruses.”
The study was published in the journal Sciences.