Quirks & Quarks

An 'elegant strategy' to design a new flu vaccine

Combining an 'elegant strategy' from China with a Canadian-made universal flu vaccine could provide extremely safe, effective, one-shot prevent-all Influenza protection.
A nasal flu spray vaccine is administered at a U.S. hospital. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

When it comes to flu shots, our current vaccines just haven't been all that effective. Last year's adult flu shot only worked 45 to 50 per cent of the time. And an expert panel from the U.S. suggested that FluMist — the nasal spray children get —   wasn't worth it. Regardless, Canadian health officials still recommend both adults and kids get the shot or the mist.

The flu shot is currently produced by blowing up a flu virus into a bunch of pieces, so they're no longer infectious, to introduce to our immune system. The FluMist vaccine - a nasal spray typically given to children, is made by genetically manipulating it so it no longer causes disease. The problem with the FluMist vaccine is the live virus can replicate in the upper respiratory tract, which could cause problems for those with weaker immune systems. 

The flu season can begin as early as October and end as late as May. (Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press)

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A new study published in Science describes an entirely new way of designing vaccines, which in animal models is proving to be at least as effective as current vaccine methods, if not more. This method of developing vaccines, which involves genetically modifying the influenza virus so it cannot replicate in human cells, was developed out of China's Peking University in Beijing. 

Dr. Matthew Miller from McMaster University says if this new vaccine design method was combined with the universal flu vaccine he's working on, we could be one step closer to a very effective and safe one-shot prevent-all Influenza protection. 

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