Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

Immunity to swine flu raises hopes for long-lasting universal shot

People infected with the swine flu virus developed antibodies that could hold the secret to developing a universal flu vaccine, according to a study published this week in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

In last month’s issue of Nature Medicine, I wrote about a number of different strategies in the works to develop a long-acting vaccine aimed at providing broad-acting protection against all sorts of influenza viral strains. Most of these approaches involve developing antibodies or T cell responses to conserved proteins in the virus that don’t change a great deal from one strain to the next.

Keeping in line with this tactic, a team led by Patrick Wilson, an immunologist at the University of Chicago, inspected the antibody response induced by people who fell ill with the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. They found close to a hundred antibodies that reacted with the virus, including five that were cross-reactive against many strains, including the 1918 H1N1 Spanish flu and H5N1 avian flu viruses.

Several of the antibodies acted against the conserved stalk of the ‘H’ protein called hemagglutinin, and some of them were actually the same as those found by previous groups mentioned in our news story.

The study authors now hope to use the antibodies to develop a long-lasting flu jab. “It says that a universal influenza vaccine is really possible,” Wilson told Reuters.

Image from Daniel Paquet via Flickr Creative Commons


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