Rethinking Healthcare

New shot boosts hope for universal flu vaccine

Posting in Technology

In trials, Multimeric-001 boosts immunity as a supplement. But since it contains a common denominator shared by 10,000 flu strains, it should be able to protect against all strains of flu.

In a current clinical trial, flu vaccine Multimeric-001 is shown to boost the immunity of elderly people when given as a supplement to the seasonal shot.

BUT, the drug’s maker, BiondVax Pharmaceuticals in Israel, believes that Multimeric-001 alone could protect against all strains of flu. Nature News reports.

For most infectious agents, one exposure teaches the body’s immune system to recognize and destroy the virus or bacterium. The standard flu vaccine teaches the body to recognize the virus's outer coating, but influenza mutates from year to year, forcing scientists to guess which strains to include in the seasonal vaccine.

If there were one vaccine that worked for any kind of flu, no matter how it mutated its coat, the costs of protection would drop and pandemics could disappear.

Compared to 30 participants who received only the annual vaccine, the 90 participants (aged 65 and older) who got the pair of shots mounted a stronger immune response to the 3 seasonal flu strains, as well as to a few other strains not in the seasonal vaccine.

The Multimeric-001 vaccine comprises 9 linked sections from 3 flu proteins from different parts of the virus. These represent a common denominator shared by more than 10,000 flu strains since 1940. So in theory, this combination should be universal since every strain of flu would have them.

In February, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology showed that Multimeric-001 was safe and conferred immunity on its own.

But BiondVax thinks that a universal flu vaccine would be a tough sell to regulatory agencies. The standard test for a vaccine’s efficacy is based on the presence of antibodies to the ever-changing parts of the protein on the outside of the virus in a vaccinated person's blood. Multimeric-001, however, doesn’t confer immunity to these proteins.

Instead, the company hopes to obtain approval for Multimeric-001 as a supplement to the 3-strain annual vaccine, then track the first recipients of the shot to see if they suffer from fewer flu infections.

In the latest trial, the proportion of older people with a good antibody response to the annual shot increased by more than 10% when they got Multimeric-001 first. Their immune cells also pumped out antivirals after receiving only Multimeric-001.

[Via Nature]

Image by shadphotos via Flickr

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Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure