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Is a Universal Flu Vaccine On the Horizon? 96

sciencehabit writes: Two groups of researchers have created vaccines that may lead to a universal flu shot that could protect against every type of flu. Every year millions get a flu shot but with thousands of strains that mutate and evolve across seasons, no one shot can protect against them all. Sciencemag reports on the research: "When the teams vaccinated mice, both groups saw full protection against H5N1, a lethal influenza strain distantly related to H1N1. In both studies, mice that did not receive the stem-derived vaccine died, but vaccinated mice all survived. In further experiments, the nanoparticle-anchoring vaccine showed partial protection in ferrets, whereas the other vaccine showed partial protection in monkeys. Two of the six vaccinated ferrets fell ill and died, compared with a 100% mortality rate for the unvaccinated ferrets. None of the monkeys died, but those that were vaccinated had significantly lower fevers than their nonvaccinated companions."
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Is a Universal Flu Vaccine On the Horizon?

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  • nothing's gonna change my world
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Here they come

  • by Bathroom Humor ( 4006829 ) on Monday August 24, 2015 @07:13PM (#50384639)

    Sure, having universal flu protection would be nice. But I don't know how I would feel about having THAT many autisms injected into me.

    • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Monday August 24, 2015 @09:42PM (#50385275) Journal

      Sure, having universal flu protection would be nice. But I don't know how I would feel about having THAT many autisms injected into me.

      Ha ha. But seriously... As I understand it:

      A large number of researchers (many funded by sources with no connection to drug companies) attempted to reproduce the research claiming to find a link between vaccinations and autism. They were not able to do so.

      It was discovered that the original researcher who claimed the connection was funded by a consortium of trial lawyers.

      The journal (BMJ), in which the original research was published, retracted it, investigated the study, and concluded that the author had "misrepresented or altered" the medical histories of the 12 subjects in question, in what appears to be a deliberate hoax.

      More in this CNN article [cnn.com].

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        And this has been known for several years now. The evidence of fraud was hard enough that they removed the persons PhD. Why people keep repeating that nonsense is beyond me.

        • Why people keep repeating that nonsense is beyond me.

          Because rumor spreads fast, with screaming headlines, and retractions spread slower, are low-key, and often aren't believed or discounted.

          A lot of people don't trust the "medical establishment" and won't believe "its pronouncements". If they've even heard that this is a fraud, they'll believe that the debunking research was comparable to the stuff the tobacco companies put out for decades.

          Unfortunately, this has resulted in substantial numbers of uninocu

        • Jeebus, check your facts. Wakefield, as is normal for a doctor, didn't have a PhD, but a bachelorship in surgery and medicine. He did have a fellowship of the royal college of surgeons, but that's not an academic qualification.

          What happened to Wakefield - for his fraud and ethical lapses - was that he was struck off the medical register, and so was no longer able to practice medicine in the UK.

          I'm not entirely sure that there is any procedure by which an earned PhD can be removed from someone. Honorary do

      • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Monday August 24, 2015 @11:21PM (#50385593) Homepage

        Not only that, but the researcher (Wakefield) was trying to market his own replacement to the MMR. He didn't want to eliminate vaccines, he just wanted his own to be used so he would get the money and not someone else. The irony being that the anti-vaccine groups hail him as a saint when he was trying to market a vaccine of his own.

      • Yeah, I knew about the whole fraud thing, I never really believed a Vaccine could give autism in the first place (how would it? I'm no neurologist but I imagine inducing autism would be pretty difficult without just rendering someone mentally impaired in other ways). I was just bringing some sarcasm and low brow humor to the comment section. Some people think I'm kidding but luckily having Internet people upset with me isn't something I'd worry about.

        But seriously, even if autism could be somehow connected,

      • Quick correction, it was The Lancet (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lancet) rather than the BMJ that published Wakefield's original story. The BMJ published articles undermining those findings. Other than that, you're dead on. Wakefield is a dick of the highest order. Making up results for profit and almost single handedly creating the whole vaccination paranoia bullshit. Prick.
  • I've been using the already existing one with a 75% success rate over 4 years. It's called wash your damn hands and don't touch your nose while in public.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's not enough when you work in a small office where everyone commutes to work using public transit.

    • by jonnythan ( 79727 ) on Monday August 24, 2015 @09:09PM (#50385111)

      It's usually spread through the air. And it's not a big deal for a young healthy person to get it... the problem is that this one young healthy person will spread it to many other people, some of whom will be elderly or otherwise sick or immunocompromised.

      The flu kills something like 30,000 people every year. The flu. Thirty thousand deaths. No one cares if *you* get the flu, but they might care about the person you give it to who ends up dying from it.

      The reason for everyone to get vaccinated is because high vaccination rates go a long way to preventing transmission, and thus preventing deaths.

      tl;dr Get your flu shot.

      • And it's not a big deal for a young healthy person to get it...

        Taking young and healthy people out of the workforce is still a big deal. A lot of companies in Australia offer free voluntary and fully funded flu shots for employees for this very reason. Brushing it off as "it won't kill them" is still not fun.

        And that's without even taking into account potential complications that could still render otherwise young and healthy people hospitalised for a few weeks.

      • And it's not a big deal for a young healthy person to get it...

        In particularly nasty flus, a young healthy immune system is more likely to trigger a cytokine storm [wikipedia.org], a potentially lethal situation. Little kids, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to survive the really bad influenzas than your average otherwise healthy person.

      • It's usually spread through the air. And it's not a big deal for a young healthy person to get it...

        While that is generally true, specifically the 1918 flu pandemic killed a large number of people in the age range of 25-34. It's believed that they died due to the effects of a cytokine storm whereas middle aged people did much better at surviving that flu. You had to get up to about age 75 and above to start seeing the kind of mortality rates that hit the sweet spot of 25-34 for this flu. This doesn't invalidate the fact that your post is good as is your advice for people to get their flu shots.

      • The reason for everyone to get vaccinated is because high vaccination rates go a long way to preventing transmission, and thus preventing deaths.

        Sure, buy into the sales pitch and lies why don't you. When the flu show is made for the wrong version that year, the number of flu cases does not go up. That tells me the effectiveness of the vaccine is very low, possible even non-effective. Then you also have the chance of getting the flu from the shot. And it makes you much more susceptible to getting the deadly flu when it comes around. But we need the corporate masters to make their quarterly earning, so keep getting your shot every year like a good li

        • There is literally zero chance of getting the flu from the flu shot. FYI.

          Be skeptical of your own knowledge.

    • by BTWR ( 540147 )
      Flu is transmitted by droplets. You can easily catch a droplet in your mouth or other mucous membrane, even with proper hand-washing (though that helps).
  • Highly unlikely (Score:1, Insightful)

    It's the mixture of animals (pigs mostly), birds and people in close proximity that is the source of the flu.

    I doubt a universal vaccine will be developed, given the variations amongst all the inputs.

    However, (another vaccine) is correct. You can reduce your infection rate by at least 50 percent just by washing your hands (it's the scrubbing action and the use of water and soap or alcohol that does it) and covering your nose area when you sneeze (sleeve, tissue, hands that you wash after but remember you to

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "and convincing everyone around you to cover their nose and mouth when sneezing..."

      FTFY.

  • We already have vitamin D which is very effective against seasonal viruses like the flu.

    Of course the problem is that this cannot be patented

    • Re:Vitamin D (Score:5, Informative)

      by quenda ( 644621 ) on Monday August 24, 2015 @10:21PM (#50385455)

      We already have vitamin D which is very effective against seasonal viruses like the flu.

      It is a hypothesis. Some studies have found that it helps, others have not. Last I heard there was insufficient evidence to recommend supplements. Any new evidence?
      Vaccines OTOH, have been proven to be effective. Maybe one day we will take both. Maybe.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      • by jblues ( 1703158 )
        I created the Wikipedia page on Dr Robert Edgar Hope-Simpson, the feller who originally researched the connection between Vitamin D and influenza in 2007. I was really excited about the possible connection, and this was before more wide-spread interest was initiated by the Pig Flu of 2009. I was living in cloudy Melbourne that year, so jumped in an artificial sun-bed a couple of times that winter. Anyway, I ended up getting the worst flu ever towards the end of the winter. Feverish and bed-bound for five da
        • You may not make vitamin D from UV lamp efficiently. There may be various reasons: too low cholesterol levels, the UV lamp does not produce UVB but only UVA, you skin is too brown an filters too efficiently...

          Oral supplementation is quite effective on most people, which just the problem that in order to acheive the same blood levels, some need 1000 UI per day, and others need 10000 UI (a harmful dose for the formers).

      • The risk/benefit ratio of vitamin D is such that supplementing is a good idea anyway. Taking 1000 UI per day will not harm and it can only help.

        But in order to get full benefits, higher doses bases on blood testing are required (because you can get an overdose of vitamin D). Studies finding no benefit tend to use a low dose without checking blood levels

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Monday August 24, 2015 @09:27PM (#50385215) Journal

    I've been waiting for this for several years - after reading of similar (perhaps the same) work in Europe.

    As with this story, they went after a "conserved region" on one of the critical viral proteins. This is a region that doesn't change substantially as the virus evolves, because it's the way it has to be for the virus to work, so viruses with changes to this part generally don't reproduce . (The bulk of the antibody-accessible portion of the virus is structural or "deliberate" camouflage, and mutates rapidly, which is why the viruses and ordinary vaccines keep changing.)

    They cloned the conserved region onto a plasmid and made a strain of bacteria that pumped out the artificial antigen by the bucketful, suitable for making vaccine on industrial scale.

    Story was they got one that worked for ALL the "A" strains of influenza. But they were having a hard time doing the same for "B" strains and didn't want to go for approval and production until they had a mix that could get them both.

    Perhaps this story explains the problem with the B strains - and announces the solution?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Do me a favour when this vaccine is out.. don't give it to any member of PETA or animal rights group or all other sods who keep pushing against animal testing.

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Tuesday August 25, 2015 @04:04AM (#50386295) Homepage

    Is a Universal Flu Vaccine On the Horizon?

    If it is, that's a stupid place to put it. I'll never get there!

  • I'm quite sure the people in Alpha Centauri don't want our cavemen medicine.

I've got all the money I'll ever need if I die by 4 o'clock. -- Henny Youngman

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