Monday, 27 April 2009

Universal flu vaccine in the making

Researchers are developing an influenza vaccine that protects against different strains of the flu, including potential pandemic viruses.

While drug companies currently manufacture different flu vaccines each year to match the strains of influenza that researchers predict to circulate, a universal influenza vaccine could improve protection against strains of the virus as they change.

According to Robert Belshe, who is leading the research at the Saint Louis University, scientists have taken a 'significant first step' in creating the universal vaccine.

Belshe and his colleagues studied a vaccine made with proteins from two of the five main strains of inflenza: influenza viruses A and B.

377 healthy adults received three injections of the vaccine, known as Bivalent Influenza Peptide Conjugate Vaccine (BIPCV), over a six month period.

Researchers found that a low dose of the vaccine is well tolerated and safe. The low dose vaccine also evoked an immune response, high antibody titers, that is similar to levels associated with protecting small animals infected with influenza from serious disease and death.

“This is a significant first step in developing a universal vaccine to help protect against pandemic influenza,” Belshe said, noting that more testing is needed.

More information is available from the Saint Louis University Medical Center's press release.

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