Friday, March 20, 2015

Flu Season 2015-2016

Researchers are already well under way trying to pinpoint the next influenza strain for the 2015-2016 flu season.  Specifically, researchers at Kansas State University have been examining swine flu viruses for potential leads into the next high-risk flu strain under a research grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Part of their research involves collecting samples from sick pigs and seeing if they pose any threat to humans.  Their past work actually led to the discovery of a novel H2N3 virus.  While it is too early for any results, such research is pivotal in identifying the key players of the upcoming flu season.

While such research is needed to ensure the timely delivery of a vaccine, it is this promptness that can also be detrimental to the development of a successful vaccine.  Since influenza is capable of mutating so rapidly, there is no guarantee that the influenza strains that are targeted for the vaccine will actually be circulating at high levels later this year.  With any luck, any novel strains can be accurately assessed for their potential infectivity and virulence, so that flu vaccine mismatches (as what happened this past flu season) can be avoided.

--Andrew Duong

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