Universal flu vaccine edging closer to reality

April 28th, 2009 - 3:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, April 28 (IANS) An influenza vaccine that protects against death and serious complications from different strains of flu is edging closer to reality.
“This is a significant first step in developing a universal vaccine to help protect against pandemic influenza,” said Robert Belshe, director of the Saint Louis University Centre for Vaccine Development (SLUCVD).

Currently drug companies manufacture a different flu vaccine each year to match the strains of influenza that researchers predict will circulate. Adding a universal influenza vaccine to a seasonal vaccine would help improve protection against strains of influenza as they change each year.

“Novel vaccines, capable of inducing long-lasting, broad immunity against divergent strains, including potential pandemic viruses, are highly desirable,” Belshe said.

In the study, 377 healthy adults received three injections of a universal influenza 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, Belshe said. It addition, the low dose vaccine 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. More testing is needed, Belshe added.

The research also is significant in light of the search for a vaccine to protect against a deadly influenza pandemic, which is a global outbreak of the disease that spreads quickly with lethal consequences, said an SLUCVD release.

Belshe presented his findings Monday at the National Foundation for Infectious Disease Conference for Vaccine Research in Baltimore.

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