Australian researchers recently discovered a method of improving the efficacy and cross-protective abilities of a vaccine for influenza A by adding one component.
The research could help scientists create better seasonal flu vaccines, and could also offer community protection using vaccines during the early stages of outbreaks of new flu strains.
A vaccine offering cross-protection would be essential if another flu virus can transmit from one species to people, like H5N1 transmitting from birds to humans and H1N1 transmitting from pigs to humans.
"Influenza infections cause 250,000 to 500,000 deaths every year," Brendon Chua, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne, said. "Our best protection comes from the seasonal flu vaccine, which induces antibodies that neutralize the virus."
Scientists create a new seasonal flu vaccine every year. The new vaccine is founded on an estimation of the kinds of strains that are most likely to be prevalent at the time.
"The holy grail would be to develop a vaccine that cross protects against different strains, which would be beneficial for the whole community, even if the prediction of circulating strains is wrong,” Chua said.
Further details are available in mBio, which is an online, open-access journal from the American Society for Microbiology.