An emerging class of long-lasting flu vaccines could do more than just save people the trouble of an annual flu shot. Princeton University-based researchers have found that the "universal" vaccine could for the first time allow for the effective, wide-scale prevention of flu by limiting the influenza virus' ability to spread and mutate. Universal, or cross-protective, vaccines - so named for their effectiveness against several flu strains - are being developed in various labs worldwide and some are already in clinical trials. The researchers recently reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the new vaccines would make a bout with influenza less severe, making it more difficult for the virus to spread. At the same time, the vaccines would target relatively unchanging parts of the virus and hamper the virus' notorious ability to evolve and evade immunity;
On Wednesday, the US Food and Drug Administration announced it had approved FluMist Quadrivalent, a vaccine to prevent seasonal influenza in people aged 2 to 49 years. This is the first quadrivalent flu vaccine, that is one that contains four strains of flu virus, the agency has approved. FluMist Quadrivalent, made by MedImmune LLC of Gaithersburg in Maryland, contains weakened forms of two influenza A strains and two influenza B strains. The vaccine is administered as a nasal spray, like the trivalent form, FluMist. The FDA approved FluMist Quadrivalent after reviewing safety and effectiveness studies conducted previously for the trivalent vaccine, together with three new clinical studies that examined the quadrivalent formulation in about 4, 000 children and adults in the US. The results of the studies showed that the immune responses from FluMist Quadrivalent were similar to those of FluMist.
As part of a national collaboration, Oregon Health & Science University researchers are studying specially bred mice that are more like humans than ever before when it comes to genetic variation. Through these mice, the researchers hope to better understand and treat an infectious disease that plagues us year in and year out: the flu. The scientists aim to determine why some people suffer serious illness and even death when infected with influenza while others suffer only mild to moderate symptoms. The research is published in a special joint issue of the journals Genetics and G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics, both publications of the Genetics Society of America. The research was conducted within the Pacific Northwest Regional Center for Excellence (PNWRCE) for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, a consortium of investigators with extensive expertise, and basic and translational research capacity directed at a broad range of pathogens.
After the discovery of a new influenza A virus in fruit bats in Guatemala, a study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that the virus represents no current threat to humans, although scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the University of the Valley of Guatemala, recommend to research the virus as a potential source for human influenza. Leading researcher Dr. Suxiang Tong, team leader of the Pathogen Discovery Program in CDC's Division of Viral Diseases, declared: "This is the first time an influenza virus has been identified in bats, but in its current form the virus is not a human health issue. The study is important because the research has identified a new animal species that may act as a source of flu viruses." The bat influenza virus would need to obtain some genetic properties of human influenza viruses before it could be transmitted to humans.
The temporary moratorium on research on lab-modified bird flu (H5N1) viruses is to be extended, and the publication of the studies' "entire manuscript" is to be delayed. This was the conclusion of a small group of experts who met to discuss the two issues - the meeting, which took place in Geneva, Switzerland, involved 21 experts, including the leaders of the two research centers, one in the Netherlands and the other in the USA, the research funders, bioethicists and several WHO directors who specialize in influenza. In a written communiquÃ, WHO (World Health Organization) informed that the experts believe research on other H5N1 influenza viruses - the naturally-occurring ones - should continue "in order to protect public health". Dr. Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General of Health Security and Environment, WHO, said: "Given the high death rate associated with this virus -- 60% of all humans who have been infected have died -- all participants at the meeting emphasized the high level of concern with this flu virus in the scientific community and the need to understand it better with additional research.