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H1N1 pandemic points to vaccine strategy for multiple flu strains
Date:1/10/2011

Although the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic infected an estimated 60 million people and hospitalized more than 250,000 in the United States, it also brought one significant benefitclues about how to make a vaccine that could protect against multiple strains of influenza.

In the Jan. 10, 2011, issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine, researchers from the University of Chicago and Emory University report that people who were infected with pandemic H1N1 and recovered had an extraordinary immune response, producing antibodies that are protective against a variety of flu strains.

The 2009 H1N1 virus matched typical influenza strains only in the components that are absolutely critical for the virus to function. It induced an immune response to those components that overlapped with prior influenza exposures. Incorporating these defenses--focused on the virus's most essential molecules--into a vaccine could put an end to the yearly scramble to predict coming flu strains and quickly mass produce a different vaccine each fall.

"The result is something like the Holy Grail for flu-vaccine research," said study author Patrick Wilson, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. "It demonstrates how to make a single vaccine that could potentially provide immunity to all influenza. The surprise was that such a very different influenza strain, as opposed to the most common strains, could lead us to something so widely applicable."

"Our data show that infection with the 2009 pandemic influenza strain could induce broadly protective antibodies that are only very rarely seen after seasonal flu infections or flu shots," said first author of the study, Jens Wrammert, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at Emory University School of Medicine and the Emory Vaccine Center. "These findings show that these types of antibodies can be induced in humans, if the immune system has the right stimulation.
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Contact: John Easton
john.easton@uchospitals.edu
773-702-6241
University of Chicago Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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