Researchers find new way to vaccinate against flu

Researchers from the Wistar Institute announced on Monday that they have discovered a new way to vaccinate people against influenza using prior flu exposures.

The researchers discovered that by injecting individuals with multiple strains of distinct influenza, the immune system had a greater chance of being stimulated and fighting off other strains of influenza. Their research looked at varying strains of H1N1, and found that people who were vaccinated against a seasonal H1N1 were shown to have greater antibody response against a pandemic version of H1N1.

"Influenza vaccines are very safe and provide good protection," Scott Hensley, assistant professor at The Wistar Institute and corresponding author on the study, said. "However, we need to continuously update seasonal flu vaccines because influenza viral proteins change over time. Since influenza viruses are constantly changing, we all have unique pre-exposure histories that depend on when we were born and the specific types of viruses that circulated during our childhood."

The researchers believe that vaccinating a child with antigenical distinct viral strains of influenza might help spur antibody responses against varying types of strains of influenza.

"Our studies demonstrate that individuals that are infected sequentially with dramatically different influenza strains mount antibody responses against a conserved region of influenza virus," Hensley said. "Since we now know that pre-exposure events can influence vaccine responsiveness in a predictable way, we can begin to design vaccine regiments that preferentially elicit antibody responses against conserved regions of influenza virus."