It’s currently the Easter holidays and I’m spending my time…revising. While I was studying for biology I came across antigenic variability. I found this pretty interesting and therefore I decided to research it, this when I came across the fact that a universal flu vaccine is being created. More than 10,000 people aged 65 and over will be asked to take part in a study supported by the NIHR and delivered by the University of Oxford. The influenza virus currently impacts around a billion people worldwide a year with around 250,000 to 500,000 annual deaths, mainly in the over-65 age group. Currently, the available vaccines are only 30 to 40% effective of over 65s due to the immune system weakening with age and researchers believe the new vaccine could increase this.
The current vaccines available to fight this flu use the antigen proteins located on the surface of the virus to stimulate the immune system causing it to produce antibodies, however due to the virus changing each year, so do the surface proteins, haemagglutinin and neuraminidase, therefore the flu vaccine needs to change too. Global scientists normally have to predict what the new antigens will look like however this is not very effective. The new vaccine being made is different as it uses the core proteins of the virus instead of the surface antigens. These core proteins remain virtually unchanged in all influenza A viruses, giving researchers the opportunity to create vaccines that will work against all of them. This new vaccine stimulates the immune response to produce T cells rather than antibodies that will kill the virus.
The NHS has started clinical trials for this new vaccine in hopes of an elusive goal that would eliminate our need for annual injections and have massive benefits for global public health.
I did my research from: