THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

Australian researchers discover method to predict influenza mutation

Researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia recently developed a way to predict and potentially stop mutating influenza, which could lead to the creation of a universal flu vaccine.

Katherine Kedzierska, an associate professor at the university's Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and her colleagues determined how influenza viruses dodge T cell immunity by introducing certain mutations within their proteins. The researchers found that they could promote T cell immunity by predicting how the flu cells would mutate and by developing new vaccines designed to protect against such mutations, RedOrbit.com reports.

"The introduction of a new influenza strain into human circulation leads to a rapid global spread of the virus due to minimal antibody immunity," Kedzierska said, according to RedOrbit.com. "White blood cells called T cells are highly efficient in fighting influenza virus infection. Thus, established T cell immunity towards particular viral regions can provide 'universal' immunity against distinct seasonal and pandemic influenza strains."

The research might also aid the medical community to better understand how T cells function when dealing with other viral infections like hepatitis C and HIV.

A universal vaccine could help battle the estimated three to five million cases of severe influenza that occur annually throughout the world during seasonal influenza epidemics.

Kedzierska's team published the research in the latest edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, RedOrbit.com reports.