Better flu vaccine on the horizon
|Author: Written by Dr. Anthony Fauci Added by Lan X|
Date: Thursday, August 29th, 2013
During the heat of summer, people tend to forget about the flu. Yet as high temperatures begin to decline, we're reminded that influenza, a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death, will soon return.
For the past several months, pharmaceutical companies and U.S. public health officials have been busy making and planning for the distribution of millions of doses of the flu vaccine to protect Americans in the upcoming season. The American Academy of Pediatrics released a new recommendation this week that all children ages 6 months or older be immunized against influenza as soon as the vaccine is available.
Getting vaccinated each year remains the best way to protect yourself against the seasonal flu and lessen the chance you will spread the infection to others.
Despite these efforts, each year between 3,000 and 49,000 people in the United States and approximately 500,000 worldwide die from the flu and its complications. Seasonal flu vaccines reduce the risk of illness in those vaccinated by about 60%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Clearly, we need new improved influenza vaccines to provide an even a better level of protection.
The problem is that for decades the technologies used to make flu vaccines have remained static. This fact, coupled with the intrinsic nature of these viruses to change, has created an untenable situation.
Year-round, scientists, vaccine manufacturers, and public health officials scramble to protect the public against both seasonal and potential pandemic influenza threats, the latter illustrated most recently by the H7N9 bird flu infections in humans occurring in China.
Flu viruses are monitored continually to identify those most likely to cause human illness. But it takes at least six months to produce an influenza vaccine once the targets have been identified; by late February public health officials must choose three or four virus strains expected to be circulating widely the following season.
It's a time-consuming and cumbersome process. These strains usually are grown in eggs (or more recently, in cells), inactivated and then incorporated into next season's flu vaccines.
A major drawback of this strategy is that the circulating flu viruses can evolve significantly while the vaccine is being prepared and deployed, leaving us with a less effective vaccine for the threat at hand. And always looming is the specter of a novel flu virus emerging to which humans have little or no immunity, potentially triggering an influenza pandemic -- as happened in 1918, and again in 1957, 1968 and 2009.
Among the two dozen vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, mumps, polio, smallpox and hepatitis, seasonal influenza is the only one for which a new vaccine is recommended every year. A more efficient approach is long overdue.
The medical research community has set its sights on developing a revolutionary type of flu vaccine, one to protect against a broad spectrum of flu viruses -- a so-called universal influenza vaccine. Experiments in animals and early phase clinical trials in humans indicate that this concept of broad protection is entirely feasible.
Traditional flu vaccines target regions in the head of a protein found on the surface of the virus, regions readily seen by the immune system but prone to mutations as the viruses carelessly reproduce themselves. In contrast, the new vaccine may target more stable regions of the influenza protein found in the stem, somewhat hidden from the immune system by other molecules nearby, that rarely vary from virus to virus.
Optimally, a universal flu vaccine would protect against both seasonal and potential pandemic flu viruses and provide long-lasting protection so it would be given just once or in a series of boosts, like the measles vaccine.
Realistically, however, a universal flu vaccine likely will be developed in incremental steps rather than in one giant leap -- a flu vaccine given once every ten years, like a tetanus shot, for example, or one shot that offers cross-protection against a subgroup of related influenza viruses is more likely in the short term.
A universal flu vaccine would modernize our prevention strategy, lower health care costs, and bring influenza vaccines more in line with other licensed vaccines.
Much work needs to be done before this goal is reached, and in the meantime, getting an annual flu shot in its current form is still the best protection for everyone. But in 2013, 80 years after scientists discovered that influenza is caused by a virus, we all can be encouraged that research on a transformative approach to influenza prevention is moving ahead.
- All Categories
- Academic Outreach
- Continuing & Professional Development
- Distance Learning
- Summer Sessions
- Winter Term
- Career & Workforce Development
- Lifelong Learning
- Society for Lifelong Learning
- WKU On Demand
- Study Away
- Faculty-Led Study Abroad
- Center for Faculty Development
- Cohort Programs
- Dual Credit
- Conferencing & Catering
- All Categories
- March 2016 ICYMI
- CHHS October 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS November 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS December 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS January 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS February 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS March 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS April 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS May 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS June 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS July 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS August 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS September 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS October 2012 E-Newsletter
- April 2016 ICYMI
- CHHS November 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS December 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS January 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS February 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS March 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS April 2013 E-Newsletter
- JUNE 2016 ICYMI
- CHHS May/June 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS July 2013 E-Newsletter
- Archived CHHS News
- CHHS October 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS November 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS December 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS February 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS November 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS May 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS April 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS June 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS July 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS December 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS August 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS September 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS October 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS January 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS February 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS May 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS July 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS August 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS September 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS November 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS October 2015 E-Newsletter
- December 2015 ICYMI
- January 2016 ICYMI
- MAY 2016 ICYMI
- February 2016 ICYMI
- CHHS July 2016 E-Newsletter
- CHHS August 2016 E-Newsletter
- CHHS September 2016 E-Newsletter
- CHHS October 2016 E-Newsletter
- CHHS November 2016 E-Newsletter
- CHHS December 2016 E-Newsletter
- CHHS January 2017 E-Newsletter
- CHHS September 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS August 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS July 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS June 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS May 2011 E-Newsletter
Women's Game Sat 1/21
Updates for Spring semester
The WKU Board of Regents has selected Dr. Timothy Caboni, vice chancellor for public affairs at the University of Kansas, as the preferred candidate to be the 10th president of WKU.
Note: documents in Portable Document Format (PDF) require Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher to view,
download Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Note: documents in Excel format (XLS) require Microsoft Viewer,
Note: documents in Word format (DOC) require Microsoft Viewer,
Note: documents in Powerpoint format (PPT) require Microsoft Viewer,
Note: documents in Quicktime Movie format [MOV] require Apple Quicktime,