Monday, March 5, 2012

Potential for Long-Term Flu Vaccination

Princeton University researchers have recently developed what could be a "universal" vaccine protecting against all influenza strains. The vaccine is designed to target the relatively unchanging parts of the virus and hamper its ability to evolve rapidly. Currently, flu vaccines target the virus' most adaptable parts.

So far, the researchers have only been able to demonstrate success on a computational model, given that no humans have received their designed vaccines. James Lloyd Smith from UCLA says, "This is the first study that looks at the population consequences of the next generation of vaccines, both in terms of epidemiological impact and evolutionary impact on the virus."

Current flu vaccine focuses on the hemagglutinin proteins protruding on the cell surface. Small mutations in this area are the cause of the rapidly evolving virus family. The universal vaccine, however, ignores the hemagglutinin area, and target more commonly conserved proteins.


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