Steps toward a universal flu vaccine

Erskine Palmer / CDC [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Influenza A is a highly mutable virus that infects millions of people every year and can be fatal in severe cases. Human antibodies are effective against a few strains belonging to 2 of the 16 subtypes of influenza A, and new vaccines based on those antibodies are developed each year to match the evolved viruses, at considerable expense. Although various groups have isolated antibodies that are effective against multiple subtypes of influenza A, a vaccine that protects against all subtypes has long been sought. Development of such a vaccine requires the isolation of neutralizing antibodies that are broadly effective against these subtypes. Now, a collaborative effort led by Antonio Lanzavecchia (Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Bellinzona, Switzerland) and John J. Skehel (Medical Research Council, London, UK) has identified an antibody that neutralizes all 16 subtypes of influenza A. The antibody has broad efficacy and high potency and therefore may be useful in developing a ‘universal’ vaccine.

Lab Anim. (NY) 40, 263 (2011).
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