The existence of a universal vaccine is a few steps closer with the latest study by researchers. This means having a “one-punch” universal flu vaccine will soon be within reach.
Researchers at McMaster University, along with scientists at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York and the University of Chicago published their findings on the discovery of antibodies that can counteract very dangerous types of influenza viruses. Along with it is the universal vaccine for the flu that targets specific places of the virus.
Universal Flu Vaccine
In the findings that are published in the journal of Proceedings of National Academy of Science USA (PNAS), researchers found out that creating a universal influenza vaccine that needs to be given just once is within reach.
This is made possible because of the discovery of a certain class of antibodies that can “train” the body’s immune system in recognizing a portion of the virus that remains the same from year to year.
With this, a universal vaccine need only be given once and it can already fight future flu strains, including mutated ones. This is highly helpful as the World Health Organization (WHO) reports around 250,000 to 500,000 deaths are caused by flu each year.
Matthew Miller, the senior author of the study and an assistant biochemistry and biomedical sciences professor at McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, says that they can “specifically design” the universal vaccine for influenza “to generate the most desirable types of antibodies.” Moreover, they can “avoid antibodies that block the functions that we want,” says Miller.
Antibodies and White Blood Cells
The universal influenza vaccines work like seasonal vaccines that produce antibodies that bind to the virus and prohibit it from contaminating other cells. But Miller says “antibodies isn’t enough.”
Thus, universal vaccines take a step further and recruit white blood cells that will destroy cells that are infected. By knowing the “places where antibodies bind,” vaccines can now be modified in generating “those antibodies in higher numbers.”
Moreover, the universal flu vaccine will be more effective in preventing mismatches. The antibodies that recruit white blood cells are also used in studies for treatments of HIV and cancer.
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