A universal flu vaccine is high on the wishlists of most immunologists, virologists — and even funding agencies. This week US National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins told USAToday that he’s “guardedly optimistic” that such a long-term shot will be developed within the next five years. That timeline could be aided by a report out today in Science that a single antibody is capable of inactivating all subtypes of influenza A. Read more
People infected with the swine flu virus developed antibodies that could hold the secret to developing a universal flu vaccine, according to a study published this week in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. Read more
Summer’s still in full swing, but the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is already thinking about flu season. The regulatory agency just announced that it has approved the flu vaccine for 2010-2011, and it includes protection against the 2009 pandemic H1N1 ‘swine flu’ strain as well as regular seasonal influenza. Read more
With many flu strains developing resistance to traditional small molecule treatments like Tamiflu and Rimantadine, antibodies could represent a new strategy in the war on influenza. The use of antibodies in treatment has thus far been limited by their cost, since culturing cells is a much more involved process than synthesizing compounds. But their ability to act on multiple strains lends hope for a universal treatment. Read more
There was a sense of relief yesterday at a New York Academy of Sciences conference on H1N1. Nearly a year before, many of the same people had gathered to discuss the emerging swine flu pandemic; this year, they’re catching their breath. The speakers, however, didn’t mince their words when it came to the need to bolster pandemic preparedness. Read more
Swine flu seems to be ebbing in much of the Northern Hemisphere, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But health officials maintain that the pandemic is far from over, and they are continuing to urge people to get vaccinated. Read more
Researchers have been particularly watchful for signs of Guillian-Barre syndrome (GBS), a disease that afflicted approximately 1 out of every 100,000 people in the US who received vaccines for the 1976 Swine flu (the flu that never materialized.) A report from the Washington Post this weekend examines what researchers know (not much) about the trigger for the condition, which most often arises after infection with Campylobacter jejuni, a bacterium that causes food-borne illness. Read more
Novartis cut the ribbon on its first US flu vaccine plant yesterday. The bioreactors are still empty at the Holly Springs, North Carolina, facility, but the company eventually hopes to crank out flu vaccines made from cell cultures instead of chicken eggs.