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New Flu Vaccine You know, it’s been a relatively mild flu season.

True — unless you had to suffer through one.

True enough, but I did get vaccinated because I didn’t want to be among the 90 million Americans to get the flu.

The reason you need annual vaccinations is because the virus mutates. The proteins on the virus surface change rendering our existing antibodies ineffective.

Every spring, the FDA predicts which type of flu strains they think will be the predominant disease the next year. That gives enough time to make millions of doses of flu vaccine. But when their prediction is wrong, we have a major outbreak.

What makes this a difficult task is the virus surface N and H proteins have areas that are especially variable. And it’s these variable areas that our antibodies recognize the most.

So when these proteins change, we need a new vaccine to generate the antibodies to recognize the changed parts. That way, your body can fight off the new virus.

But again, it all depends on whether scientists guessed the right virus to begin with. There is exciting new research that could take the guess work out. The new approach uses something called a monoclonal antibody.

This antibody recognizes a region of the H flu protein which is not variable. The variable regions are at the tip, but there’s an unchanging stalk like structure underneath.

If this approach works, we could have a vaccine that recognizes all influenza viruses, not just a single type. Imagine a treatment that can protect us from common flu strains and even the dreaded avian influenza.

There are plans to develop a new “universal vaccine” based on these antibodies.

This would profoundly change how we fight the flu and for you, it could mean the end of the yearly flu shot!

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For more information…

Scientists identify human monoclonal antibodies effective against bird, seasonal flu viruses
This article details the methods used to identify targets on influenza proteins that are common on many influenza types. This could lead to vaccines which combat the many different types of flu strains we see seasonally even H1N1.
For more information…

Influenza
"This spring, a new influenza virus began causing illness in people and spreading around the world. Originally called "swine flu" because the virus genes were similar to some influenza viruses that infect pigs, the new virus has been named "novel H1N1."" This is the Center for Disease Control web site for influenza. There is extensive information about season and the swine and avian flu. Great resource.
For more information…

Influenza (flu)
This is the Mayo Clinic site that has extensive medical information and advice about influenza management and the disease caused by seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus. Well linked to medical and epidemiological information.
For more information…

 
 

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