Talking to your doctor about Childhood Vaccines
|(QMI Agency file photo) |
The end of the seasonal flu shot may be approaching: Researchers at the University of British Columbia say they have found a potential way to develop universal flu vaccines that would protect against many strains of flu virus.
The research team found that the 2009 H1N1 vaccine, which protected against the virus known colloquially as the swine flu, triggers antibodies that protect against multiple influenza viruses, including the deadly avian H5N1 strain.
"The flu virus has a protein called hemagglutinin, or HA for short. This protein is like a flower with a head and a stem," lead study author John Schrader, a professor in medicine and pathology and laboratory medicine, said in a release. "The flu virus binds to human cells via the head of the HA, much like a socket and plug.
The research team found that the 2009 H1N1 vaccine induced antibodies that are broadly protective and are capable of fighting different variations of the virus.
"This is because, rather than attacking the variable head of the HA, the antibodies attacked the stem of the HA, neutralizing the flu virus," Schrader said. "The stem plays such an integral role in penetrating the cell that it cannot change between different variants of the flu virus."
The discovery, published in detail in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, could pave the way for the development of universal flu vaccines, the researchers say.
Seasonal influenza causes serious illness in three to five million people in the world each year, and kills between 250,000 and 500,000 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
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