Vaccination against 2009 H1N1 protects against multiple strains

Researchers have determined that vaccination against the pandemic 2009 H1N1 vaccine can generate antibodies against other influenza virus strains as well, including H3N2 and H5N1.

The new discovery, combined with a 2011 finding that people infected with pandemic 2009 H1N1 virus produced broadly cross-reactive levels of antibodies, brings scientists a step closer to developing a universal influenza vaccine. The research, published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was conducted by scientists from the University of Chicago, Emory University and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.

In the study, researchers found that vaccination in 24 healthy adults immunized with the pandemic 2009 H1N1 vaccine experienced a rapid increase in production of monoclonal antibodies capable of neutralizing multiple strains of influenza. Three antibody types stuck to the stalk region of the virus, which does not change as much as other regions.

"Since discovering last year that people infected with the H1N1 2009 virus produced antibodies against multiple flu strains, our goal has been to test this ability in vaccinated individuals," Rafi Ahmed, the senior author of the paper, said. "Our new finding is a key step in the development of a vaccine that can produce high levels of antibodies that protect against multiple flu strains, including challenging mutations that have the potential for widespread illness and death."

The research team will now attempt to improve on its results to create a vaccine that produces high levels of antibodies and can protect against multiple flu subtypes in a reliable manner.

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