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Medicine Science

Egg-free Flu Vaccines Provide Faster Pandemic Response 64

eggboard writes "Jen A. Miller has an egg allergy of a variety that her doctor has told her could produce a severe reaction if she were vaccinated for the flu, as flu vaccines are grown from viral strains incubated in chicken eggs. But, she explains, two new approaches have been approved by the FDA and are in production that don't use eggs at all; they're on the market in small amounts already, but will be available in much larger quantities soon. It's not just about egg allergies: the new vaccine types (one relying in insect proteins and the other on animal proteins) provide a much faster turnaround time in response to flu pandemics — as little as two to three months from isolation of a strain to mass production instead of at least six months with eggs."
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Egg-free Flu Vaccines Provide Faster Pandemic Response

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  • by Kaenneth ( 82978 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @06:06PM (#46290375) Homepage Journal

    My sister is currently suffering from the flu; she works at a pharmacy, so is exposed to a lot of sick people, but had an allergic reaction to previous flu shots, so she couldn't be vaccinated.

    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      Couldn't she claim or attempt to claim a workplace-related injury, so that her time off does not come from her regular sick pool?

      Or are they good enough to give the pharmacy employees a disproportionate pool of sick time relative to most other employers?
    • Could you describe her symptoms? The flu shot I got this season gave me a bit of woozy feeling that evening with a low grade fever easily dealt with by a couple of Tylenols. In other words, my immune system was doing its job.

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        haha, probably coincidental from the flu shot, or psychosomatic.

        That's not how the flu vaccine works, they are weakened cold adapted viruses.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Flu shots are designed to trigger an immune response, so mild, flu-like symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, et cetera are normal. Also, to the best of my knowledge, psychosomnia cannot cause full-blown flu symptoms such as fever, running nose, sore throat, fluid in the lungs, et cetera. If you have those symptoms, it is probably because you were already infected with the flu virus or another pathogen that causes flu-like symptoms when you received the vaccine.
    • Is she taking time off?
      • by Kaenneth ( 82978 )

        Trading assigned days with other workers, it's a Union job with enough sick/vacation days, but those are saved for vacations...

  • That's terrible. Now how are we supposed to knock out the vegans?
    • I have to admit I'm not up on my vegan dogma, but don't insects qualify as animals?

      • by DeTech ( 2589785 )
        There was an old lady who swallowed a soy based non-GM fly like analogue?
      • by aitikin ( 909209 )
        Depends on the vegan. My brother will consume honey, but he is still a vegan.
        • Real level 5 vegans don't eat anything that casts a shadow.
          • by mspohr ( 589790 )

            I was about to point out that many vegetables do cast a shadow until I looked up "level 5 vegan".
            Good show.

        • My brother will consume honey, but he is still a vegan.

          I suspect some vegans might dispute that.

        • by Trogre ( 513942 )

          Interesting point there. Do bees have faces?

      • one relying in insect proteins and the other on animal proteins

        Thus, obviously, no, they don't.

        Otherwise the summary would be wrong, and this is Slashdot...

  • Combine this with the story from earlier in the day. [] Problem solved.
  • The only years I've ever gotten the flu is when I cave and get a flu shot. "well that means you allready had it before the shot!" sure thing pal.
    • Re:whatever (Score:4, Informative)

      by DeTech ( 2589785 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @06:48PM (#46290725)
      Each years flu vaccine is really just an educated guess on which flu will be going around that year. Most of the time it's just based on what was in the other hemisphere that year... it can be wrong so it's not a sure thing.
    • The only years I've ever gotten the flu are the two where I did _not_ get the flu shot..

      There you go. Now neither of our data points is meaningful.

    • Let's see... on the one hand there's hundreds of years of scientific investigation and clinical studies into the pros and cons of vaccination, and on the other there's some guy on Slashdot with a (probably misremembered) anecdote... this is going to be a tricky one...

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      either you are a liar, had the virus before getting the shot, or what you had was some form of stomach distress and not influenza. Many think are 'flu like' but aren't influenza.

  • by Brewdinar ( 3544101 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @06:46PM (#46290705)
    I know that I'm missing the human-interest angle of the story here, but as someone who works at a company that has performed some large-scale DNA vaccine production research (Vandalia Research, but please don't google us because the website is an embarrassment), I'm a little disappointed that the article didn't try harder to explain the difference between these new vaccines and the old egg-grown ones. I think a little science education is a good thing to provide, to pull back the curtain on the good that genetic engineering can do. The first-pass explanation was "Flublok uses insect proteins instead of eggs. (The other is Flucelvax, which relies on animal proteins.)" which is rather poor since the proteins don't replace the eggs, the insect/animal culture cells those proteins are grown in do. I don't expect an in-depth discussion of promoters or vectors, but more about the recombinant engineering involved than "insect cells are used to cultivate hemagglutinin" would be nice. For anyone interested in a more academic explanation of Flublok's approach, along with several other possible vaccine design strategies that will hopefully be coming soon, a good page to read would be []
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Remember everything articles get wrong on subjects you do know about? yeah, that's for everything they write about.

    • An article written for a specialist like you would bore the majority of readers who don't have that kind of background.

    • Trust me. No articles are very correct it is just that you are not an expert in the other fields that other articles discuss. Yes this article is wrong but so are the articles on genetic engineering, hard drives, SSD, memory, CPUs, gravity, dark matter and every other subject you could imagine.

  • You probably know whether or not you are allergic to eggs. How many people know whether or not they are allergic to grasshoppers?

    • Re:Insects? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Guppy ( 12314 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @07:57PM (#46291203)

      We eat more insect bits in our breakfast cereal than most people realize.

      I wouldn't be surprised if a proportion of the population were allergic to grasshoppers but -- given how ubiquitous exposure to insect proteins is -- drop-dead anaphylactic reactions are going to be unlikely to be revealed for the first time with a flu shot.

  • "Flublok uses insect proteins instead of eggs"

  • Flublok Experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Guppy ( 12314 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @08:06PM (#46291271)

    I received the Flublok vaccine several months ago, having sought it out due to a egg allergy. Paid around ~$30 at my local pharmacy, and had to wait a few days after my initial inquiry, for them to get it in stock. While my allergy is mild, the traditional flu vaccine still leaves me with mild muscle aches and malaise that lasts for several days.

    As a medical student, I am required receive the flu vaccination each year (exemptions for certain severe reactions only). This year's flu vaccination was the easiest ever -- over the next few days, there were no noticeable adverse reaction at all.


  • by Trogre ( 513942 )

    Great, now can they take out the mercury-based preservative too.

    Not that it has been found to be harmful in any way when bonded in that form, but its removal would give a lot less fuel to idiotic anti-vaccination groups. I don't believe for a second that it would shut up such groups, but it would give uninformed Joe Public even less cause to listen to them.

  • partial info (Score:5, Informative)

    by slew ( 2918 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @08:19PM (#46291379)

    Yeah, it was a puff piece written in first-person form, but this whole egg-free stuff actually gained momentum back in the 2001 and came to a tipping point back during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic scare...

    Two of the first widely deployed cell-based, mono-valent flu vaccines (2009-H1N1-only) were Celtura (made by Novartis) and Celvapan (made by Baxter). The shortage of egg-based virus production during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic scare and the controversy over the use of adjuvant MF59 (e.g., in Pandemrix, an egg-based flu-vaccine developed as a supplemental flu shot that year) used to amp the immune response in order to *stretch/cut* the available virus production tended to obscure the difference between egg and cell-based vaccines to most of the public...

    Novartis makes a few variants (Celtura, Optaflu, Flucelvax) grown in cells derived from the MDCK** line of cells.
    Baxter makes another variant (Celvapan, Preflucel) grown in cells derived from the VERO*** line of cells.
    Protein Sciences' FluBlok is quite different, though. An insect line (expresSF+) of cells is infected with a baculovirus which was GM-ed to encode the desired HA protein (e.g., a specific H1 flu-variant). No flu virus present.

    **MDCK: cell line extracted by S. H. Madin, N. B. Darby from Canine (adult female cocker spaniel) Kidney tissue in September 1958.
    ***VERO: cell line extracted by Yasumura and Kawakita from a VErda (green) monkey RinO (kidney) tissue in March 1962.
    expresSF+: private cell line isolated in 1983 by C. Cherry and G. Smith from some unknown mixture of cells originated from a fall armyworm (a type of caterpillar) started in 1970.

    • The parent post to this has a whole lot of specific information about the new generation of flu- vaccines --

      There's much more specific stuff here than in the (rather vague) Russian review for which a link was put up earlier.


  • Last i checked...
  • The virus or the egg?

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