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expert reaction to two papers describing two different potential universal flu vaccines in animals

Two teams of scientists have published their work in the journals Nature Medicine and Science, and report the development and successful testing of vaccines in animals which aim to protect against a variety influenza viruses.


Prof. Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology, University of Oxford, said:

“The flu vaccines that we use now work by raising immunity to a part of the influenza virus called haemagglutinin, which is shortened to HA. It’s on the outside of the virus which is a good place for the antibodies to attack the virus and stop it from causing an infection, but different viruses have different HA molecules, and the HA keeps changing on the viruses that circulate each year. Last year the flu vaccine efficacy was very low because the HA in the vaccine didn’t match the HA on the virus that was circulating, so the antibodies did not recognise the virus.

“We’ve known for some time that there is a region of HA, the stem, that does not change and is present on all flu A viruses, and if we can use only that part in the vaccine we could raise immunity to many different viruses at the same time, but it has been technically challenging to make a vaccine that works in that way. Now two groups have made significant advances, each of them producing ‘HA stem’ vaccines that work well when tested in animals.

“This is an exciting development, but the new vaccines now need to be tested in clinical trials to see how well they work in humans. This will be the next stage of research, which will take several years. So we are still some way from having better flu vaccines for humans.”



* ‘Hemagglutinin-stem nanoparticles generate heterosubtypic influenza protection’ by Yassine et al. published in Nature Medicine on Monday 24th August. 


ǂ ‘A stable trimeric influenza hemagglutinin stem as a broadly protective immunogen’ by Impagliazzo et al. published in Science on Monday 24th August.


All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:


Declared interests

Prof. Sarah Gilbert: I am the author of a patent on an influenza vaccine to induce broad immunity through T cell responses

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