Scientists are always trying to create vaccines that can target specific strains of flu and have created a few but that has not been able to stem the more virulent strains of the disease that continues to kill people worldwide during onset of flu season. Two strains of influenza virus namely Strain A and Strain B are responsible for the flu which has caused illness among 9.3 million to 49 million people every year since 2010 within United States alone as per figures released by Centers for Disease Control.
To control influenza doctors must give the right vaccine for the flu virus strain which can have various subtypes. For these vaccines to be useful they have to understand the virus strain and subtype that is circulating within a particular group of people and offer right protection. Till date no universal vaccine has been created that can cure all influenza strains effectively.
To manage this problem a team of investigators from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York has come up with a new technique to change scientists’ methodology of targeting viruses. This approach developed in collaboration with their colleagues from other institutions can provide a pathway to developing universal flu vaccine they suggested in a recent paper published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. Prof Peter Palese and Florian Krammer concentration their focus on hemagglutinin which is a protein on the surface of flu viruses which is then directed towards host cells that can then be infected.
This protein has two components namely a head and a stalk, while the former differs in strains the latter does not vary much. Based on this premise researchers decided to develop a vaccine that would target hemagglutinin’s stalk that is less variable. Then they worked with a protein variant referred to as “chimeric hemagglutinin”. One of their approaches in which single vaccine with inactivated influenza virus vaccine was used was successful in activating antibodies which fight several types of flu virus.