Study shows ethnicity may affect response to flu vaccine

The study could also help scientists as they work toward creating a universal flu vaccine. | File photo

A recent study conducted at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute shows that the immune response generated by the influenza vaccine may be linked to a person’s ethnic background and similar inherited variables.

The scientists were surprised to see a person’s ethnicity can change the genetic variation within an important gene in the immune system. This gene produces antibodies that are meant to detect and eliminate common influenza A virus strains.

Evaluating the genes and their variations could be helpful as researchers continue innovating different ways to protect people from infections. The study, published in the Nature journal, will help future researchers develop new tools for determine how people as well as various populations will react to influenza vaccines.

The study could also help scientists as they work toward creating a universal vaccine that would give people protection for several years against several flu strains.

"This will change our understanding of how to achieve universal vaccine responsiveness in a population," Dr. Wayne Marasco, a cancer immunologist and virologist at Dana-Farber, said.

The researchers specifically studied IGHV1-69, which is one of the approximately 50 genes that humans use to produce protein antibodies to eliminate infections in the body. There are several variations of this gene, which is what produces the varying differences between races.

Organizations in this story

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute 450 Brookline Ave Boston, MA 02215-5418

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