Influenza virus research designed to boost vaccine efficiency

University of Helsinki scientists recently conducted a study that better predicts which influenza viruses will be circulating for the flu season, which will help researchers develop more effective vaccines.

With genome information, scientists have made a better method for tracking and predicting the viral evolution of influenza viruses. Using whole-genome sequences of the viruses, they can make more reliable, real-time estimations of the virus and its progress.

We named these characteristic variants as evolutionary markers as they seemed to contain valuable information regarding the viral evolution,” Denis Kainov, the research team's leader, said.

Every year, large amounts of data are analyzed to create seasonal influenza vaccines and protect people from respiratory illness and potentially serious diseases. Creating more accurate vaccines will protect more people around the world.

“We believe that our results and methodology could further improve vaccine strain selection process and, thereby, enhance vaccine efficacy,” Kainoc said. “Each year a substantial number of Finns gets influenza. We estimated that if the vaccination efficacy increases by 50 percent, this would save up to 8,000 people from getting the disease in Finland alone. Our team proposes using the strains containing all the identified evolutionary markers as vaccine candidates for upcoming influenza seasons.”

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University of Helsinki

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