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Saturday, December 30th 2006

Less Sitcks, More Protection


Are British pharmaceuticals on the verge of a vaccine for all influenza A infections?

Described as the ‘holy grail’ of flu vaccines, it would protect against all strains of influenza A – the virus behind both bird flu and the nastiest outbreaks of winter flu.

Just a couple of injections could give long-lasting immunity – unlike the current vaccine which has to be given every year.

The brainchild of scientists at Cambridge biotech firm Acambis, working with Belgian researchers, the vaccine will be tested on humans for the first time in the next few months.

The piece provides a balanced view however,

He added: “If you get a M2 vaccine which protects against the whole caboodle in the same vaccine, the possibilities are huge.”

But, others cautioned that there is no guarantee that the jabs would be as effective in humans as it has been in animals.

Virologist Professor Ian Jones, of the University of Reading, said: “It is an encouraging technique which may have a role to play but it is too soon to assume that it will translate into a universal vaccine in the human population.”

Dr Ron Cutler, an infectious diseases expert from the University of East London, said: “Continual protection would be a tremendous advantage against flu.”

He cautioned however, that there is no guarantee that the M2 protein will not mutate in the future – meaning the jab will have to be regularly reformulated.

The M2 protein is what is targeted by some influenza antivirals (but not the famous Tamiflu which is an NA inhibitor). The protein is necessary in the “uncoating” of the virus once it infects cells. Unfortunately for antivirals which target this protein the protein definitely mutates. How much it would have to mutate for the body’s antibodies against it not to recognize the protein anymore I have no idea.