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Medicine

Universal Flu Vaccine "Blueprint" Discovered 100

Posted by samzenpus
from the common-cure dept.
minty3 writes "Scientists say they used the pandemic as a 'natural experiment' to discover how the body's immune system builds resistance to the flu. The research, published in the journal Nature Medicine, showed how certain immune cells helped some avoid the severe illness. 'Our findings suggest that by making the body produce more of this specific type of CD8 T cell, you can protect people against symptomatic illness,' said study leader Professor Ajit Lalvani, from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, in a statement. 'This provides the blueprint for developing a universal flu vaccine.'"
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Universal Flu Vaccine "Blueprint" Discovered

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  • Good news (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 23, 2013 @02:48PM (#44927281)

    That's good news for people with universal flu.

    • by Roachie (2180772)
      The Stand was not an instruction manual.
    • by odie5533 (989896)
      Technically it's good for the people might be in contact with the one's that have universal flu. The people that already have it are goners.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Right, try to kill a multibillion dollar annual industry and see how quickly this research just vanishes. /cynic

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 23, 2013 @03:05PM (#44927457)

      Finding a cure puts people out of work. Researchers, Doctors, Nurses.

      Thanks Obama!

    • Why bury? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by denzacar (181829) on Monday September 23, 2013 @03:08PM (#44927485) Journal

      If I was a multibillion dollar industry I'd very much appreciate the fact of having a product that gets sold to every human being on the planet, every year right about the time for holidays, scoring me a big boost in the Q4.

      But then again I also believe that based on available evidence it was Lee Harvey Oswald that shot Kennedy.

      • Not too expensive so that everyone in the first world can afford it, and bulk-cheap enough that every first world government will help every third world country pay for it for their citizens.

      • Q4 is a myth (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Monday September 23, 2013 @04:17PM (#44928201)

        Flu isn't prevalent in Q4 or any specific time of the year at all, especially on a global scale. The reason why people get flu more often in bad weather conditions is because they all crowd inside and the contamination risk is much higher when the people density is up.

        Also, it has nothing to do with your "resistance" and vitamin C doesn't help cure the flu. Flu is not a common cold but an entirely different strain of virus. Both are not the least impressed with people eating vitamin C or drinking orange juice. The only thing that vitamin C will help against is a vitamin C deficiency. Whether you will get ill from any of these viruses is mostly determined by how well adapted you already are against that particular virus or something close enough related. You will get infected, you possibly will spread the virus, you just won't get any major symptoms if your body is able to deal with it in an efficient way.

        • by denzacar (181829)

          Flu isn't prevalent in Q4 or any specific time of the year at all, especially on a global scale. The reason why people get flu more often in bad weather conditions is because they all crowd inside and the contamination risk is much higher when the people density is up.

          "Why" is of no importance as far as profits go, as long as it happens with predictable and noticeable enough intensity during a "when" which is Q4.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Flu isn't prevalent in Q4...The reason why people get flu more often in bad weather conditions is...

          Hmmm, seems to me that just adding the reasonable assumption that bad weather conditions are more prevalent in Q4 kind of leaves you contradicting yourself...

        • The reason why people get flu more often in bad weather conditions is because they all crowd inside and the contamination risk is much higher when the people density is up.

          There is some evidence that is does actually relate to the bad whether. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121204162125.htm [sciencedaily.com]

      • Plus, theoretically you may only get one sale off of this, but your competitors get zero.
        • Unlikely. Most vaccines need reinforcement shoots periodically, and flu vaccines need this in very short periods comparatively to other kinds of vaccines.
      • Re:Why bury? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday September 23, 2013 @07:43PM (#44929993) Journal

        If I was a multibillion dollar industry I'd very much appreciate the fact of having a product that gets sold to every human being on the planet, every year right about the time for holidays, scoring me a big boost in the Q4.

        One would think so.
        The reality is that seasonal flu vaccines are not very profitable.
        At one point, in 2004, the USA was down to just 2 manufacturers.

        The only thing keeping the vaccine market afloat is large orders from Federal and State governments.
        Without those Government orders, the vaccine market in the USA would collapse.

        In addition to everything I just mentioned, there's almost no spare capacity in the vaccine industry.
        So if someone shuts down a plant, those dosages are not going to be replaced by a competitor.

        • That even with the current vaccine which clearly does not cure the flu, they are able to maintain a government subsidized monopoly with "almost no spare capacity", even though it is supposedly "not very profitable".

          On top of that the new, effective, vaccine which would be protected by patents, would replace the old one (while keeping the government subsidies) AND it should clearly be more expensive to produce - both because there's "almost no spare capacity" AND because it is new technology.
          And that's just

    • by Mahldcat (1129757)
      ....or alternatively what do you want to bet that this will be priced to a point where it will be impossible for the normal person to take advantage of.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Frojack123 (2606639)

        ....or alternatively what do you want to bet that this will be priced to a point where it will be impossible for the normal person to take advantage of.

        Exactly like polio vaccine.

        Oh, wait...

        • by loufoque (1400831)

          Why is price relevant?
          Isn't your government paying for the medication?

          Oh right, you live in the US...

          • Why is price relevant?
            Isn't your government paying for the medication?

            Oh right, you live in the US...

            Oh right, you flunked economics 101.

            • by loufoque (1400831)

              Clearly you haven't been in a country with a modern health system, like France or the scandinavian countries.

              • Clearly you don't understand that Governments don't pay for anything,
                citizens do [wikipedia.org].
                France up to 75% personal income tax.
                Sweden 57%. Norway 47%

                How can otherwise intelligent people be so ignorant of basic economics?

                • by loufoque (1400831)

                  The cost of the medication doesn't really affect the tax rate. What's costly is the infrastructure, the personnel and the inefficient administration.

                • by Anonymous Coward

                  How can otherwise intelligent people be so ignorant of basic economics?

                  The sad truth is that the vast majority who post on Slashdot still live
                  with their parents and they have never actually needed to pay attention
                  to things like a budget or taxes. This and stupidity will explain over 95%
                  of the cases of ignorance with respect to economics.

                • by Ironchew (1069966)

                  Sounds to me like their (admittedly higher) taxes have a far higher return in quality of living than ours here in the U.S. We have our tax revenue directed by politicians who are determined to make government look inept, and that's what we get.

                  I would gladly pay far more in taxes if we had a functional safety net comparable to other first-world nations.

                  • I would gladly pay far more in taxes if we had a functional safety net comparable to other first-world nations.

                    That's not what you get when you pay more taxes - you just get poorer and the tax collectors and thousands of their friends get richer. [weeklystandard.com]

                    • by RespekMyAthorati (798091) on Tuesday September 24, 2013 @12:07AM (#44931403)
                      Germany, Denmark and Finland have functional safety nets with relatively high taxes, while at the same time maintaining economies that make that of the U.S. look like a sad joke.
                      On the other hand, they don't have expensive spy technology used to spy on their own people, or multi-billion dollar fighter planes that don't work.
                      Hell, they can't even afford to run two middle eastern wars without getting trillions of dollars in debt to China!

                      Americans are so much better off.
      • by MightyYar (622222)

        They can't do that for more than 15 or 20 years, though - and that's assuming that no one else figures out a way around the patent. Eventually, this will be great for everyone.

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      Not nearly as quickly as the advertisements bragging about curing the flu.

      Our flu vaccine has saved millions of lives already, and will save billions by the decade's end! Now, we've brought that same medical ingenuity to Noshits, for immediate diarrhea relief!

    • by westlake (615356) on Monday September 23, 2013 @03:57PM (#44927991)

      Right, try to kill a multibillion dollar annual industry and see how quickly this research just vanishes. /cynic

      Did the polio vaccine kill big pharma? The vaccines for measles, shingles, cervical cancer? The answer, of course, is no. Timeline of vaccines [wikipedia.org]

      The pharmaceutical industry --- like the life insurance industry ---- benefits from a population that is active, healthy, prosperous, and long-lived

    • And this will cause the creation or mutation of the "T virus" into the population somewhere beneath Raccoon City.
  • why universal? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by green is the enemy (3021751) on Monday September 23, 2013 @03:21PM (#44927603)

    “The immune system produces these CD8 T cells in response to the usual seasonal flu,” Lalvani said. “Unlike antibodies, they target the core of the virus, which doesn’t change, even in new pandemic strains.”

    This simple argument does not entirely convince me that they found a universal vaccine. Proving that it is universal should require extensive experiments on many different strains. Can any experts pitch in why they really did find the key to a universal flu vaccine?

    • by Japie_H (997237)
      From there abstract (I'm not at work so I don't have access to the full text at the moment) they don't claim to have found a universal vaccine.

      What is important to know is that many virusses (including influenza) have a core containing the genomic material and a protective envelop. The immune system can make antibodies to both the protective envelop and the proteins of the core. The different strains of influenza (H1N1, H5N1 etc.) are classified based on 2 proteins on the envelop of the virus (wiki link:
  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Monday September 23, 2013 @03:23PM (#44927621) Journal
    Putting aside that I can't see how they ever came to the conclusion that the universe needed a flu vaccination, what's even harder to figure out is what size of dosage will they need to service something that's (last I heard) approximately 56 billion light years wide, and where the hell are they going to inject the needle?
  • by gregthebunny (1502041) on Monday September 23, 2013 @03:32PM (#44927729) Journal
    This is how zombie movies always start. Some new "universal" vaccine that induces growth of one type of cell. No thanks. I like being un-undead.
  • Cytokine Storms (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Monday September 23, 2013 @03:35PM (#44927757) Homepage Journal

    It's not entirely clear from the abstract, so just for some background (of what I assume is behind the paywall) the main problem with severe flu is cytokine storms [jhsph.edu]. Basically, your immune system can get into a positive feedback loop trying to kill the virus and wind up killing most of the body's cells instead. In the Pandemic Flu of 1918, a great number of the dead were the healthiest ones with great immune systems.

    So I'm assuming what's going on here is that they've isolated the parts of the immune system that actually kill the flu, and have a plan to prime them for action. That would be super-awesome. The annual flu deaths, just in the US is in the 3000-49000 [cdc.gov] per year range. If you have to use government terms, that's at least a 9/11 every year, and if you have to spend a trillion dollars on something, this would be a much better target.

  • ...that will eventually produce CD8 T resistant flu.

    Double edged sword.

    Damn that Darwin!

    • Yes, its a shame we didn't learn our lesson after the huge pandemics of vaccine resistant polio. Clearly we should let people continue to die of the flu to prevent it from possibly evolving into something harmful. Or maybe if we just kill everyone who gets the flu we can breed flu resistant humans and finally eradicate this deadly disease.

      • by jamesh (87723) on Monday September 23, 2013 @04:39PM (#44928421)

        Yes, its a shame we didn't learn our lesson after the huge pandemics of vaccine resistant polio. Clearly we should let people continue to die of the flu to prevent it from possibly evolving into something harmful. Or maybe if we just kill everyone who gets the flu we can breed flu resistant humans and finally eradicate this deadly disease.

        You can't really draw a parallel between polio and the flu. The flu has a bunch of non-human hosts that it can jump between. It will happily sit around in the bird/pig/whatever population until it mutates into something that can infect humans again. And birds go everywhere.

        AFAIK, polio is for humans (or primates at least) only

        • You can't really draw a parallel between polio and the flu. The flu has a bunch of non-human hosts that it can jump between. It will happily sit around in the bird/pig/whatever population until it mutates into something that can infect humans again.

          It will do that regardless of whether or not humans continue to be a viable host for existing flu viruses.

          Fair point about polio.

      • by Assmasher (456699)

        You'd probably compare cancer to to the measles in your simplicity...

  • "Scientists say they used the pandemic"

    What pandemic?

  • ... the flu discovers YOU!!!
  • I think not.... if the vaccine immunizes against a large number of viruses ---- it will create a competitive gap; in viruses affecting humans, so eventually, a strain of some virus will probably emerge that fits that gap.

    I am all for a vaccine that offers some protection/mitigation against all known types of flu. But I think implying that it's a universal cure-all against all future strains of flu, is more hope than reality.

  • by manu0601 (2221348) on Monday September 23, 2013 @08:23PM (#44930243)

    Scientist discovers the explanation for a piece of a phenomenon.

    Journalist makes up a news stating it will lead to a cure for cancer/autism/flu/aging/diabetes/whatever

    If you read a bunch of scientific news titles, you could wonder why we are not immortals yet. It would be nice if scientific journalists could stop writing their headlines with the idea that readers are stupids

  • FYI, Nature has been known to publish absolute crap... stuff that should have never gotten past peer review.

    I know nothing about this particular topic, but I want to warn anyone who thinks that "published in Nature" means "reliable". Actually, none of the "latest research" should be considered reliable, but I think that Nature is one of the worst high-profile journals.

Physician: One upon whom we set our hopes when ill and our dogs when well. -- Ambrose Bierce

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