For a long time, researchers and scientists have been seeking a vaccine that would treat all of the various types of the flu. Each year doctors try to predict which flu strains will be prevalent and then make a vaccine based on those predictions. Sometimes, they get it right and allow for the prevention of the flu in millions of people. On other occasions, they don’t accurately predict the flu strain that will be present, and the flu vaccine the put time and money into creating becomes worthless.
With a universal vaccine, there would be no need for predictions. This vaccine would work regardless of which flu strain was popular in any given season. A new study that was conducted at Rockefeller University has indicated that a universal strain may be possible in the coming future.
Modifying Antibodies To Find A Universal Vaccine
Antibodies consist of two separate regions. One side attaches itself to a foreign virus, also know as an antigen, while the other end, the Fc region, connects to certain cells and helps coordinate the immune response throughout the body.
The new study examined how chemical changes to the Fc region may allow for a more potent response to the flu virus.
The researchers in the study examined altered vaccine types and Fc regions in mice and various cell cultures. They were able to determine that by adding a specific type of altered antibody to the vaccine, along with pieces of the virus itself, a stronger and broader reaching vaccine could be produced.
The team realized that by altering this one part of the Fc region, it would force the body to create strongest types of antibodies it was capable of making. The altered Fc region prevented weaker antibodies from being made. With a stronger force of antibodies to fight the flu virus, a broader range of flu strains could be treated with the same vaccine.
A Difficult Disease To Treat And Manage
Thousands of people die from the flu virus every year. Most of these people are over the age 65, as their bodies have a more difficult time fighting off the disease. Many people suffer serious symptoms from the sickness every year. It is difficult to make a vaccine because there are such a wide variety of flu strains, making it hard to predict the strain that will be prominent in a given flu season.
The traditional flu vaccine only prevented against three to four strains of the virus. With so many different types of strains, the flu vaccine often does not provide adequate protection needed to prevent the disease.
The team from Rockefeller University is hopeful that their new way of developing vaccines could play a significant role in reducing the prominence and morbidity of the flu virus. They are hoping that this new method could not only provide a seasonal prevention option for the flu, but could also be used as a lifelong prevention of the flu and its many strains.
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