Current H1N1 vaccine protects against 1918 strain

In a finding that could reduce concern over a potential release of the strain, a team of researchers in the U.S. reported this week that the current H1N1 vaccine protects mice and possibly humans against the 1918 pandemic virus.

The report, composed by investigators from Mount Sinai School of Medicine and St. Louis University, fits with previous studies showing a close relationship between the 2009 pandemic and the 1918 virus. It also reinforces evidence that, due to exposure to previous strains, older people have some protection against the 2009 H1N1 virus.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases funded the study and issued a statement, stating that, "The new vaccine works against the old virus because the 1918 and the 2009 strains of H1N1 influenza share features that allow vaccine-generated antibodies to recognize both viruses."

The researchers indicate that further studies are needed to confirm the results. Monkeys and ferrets may be used to find whether the vaccination can prevent transmission of the 1918 strain. The scientists also believe that this new finding is likely to affect development of future biosecurity practices.

Adolfo Garcia-Sastre of Mount Sinai led the study as its senior author. The findings were published online this week by Nature Communications.