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LIAI completes world's most comprehensive analysis on influenza virus data

. In particular, the LIAI scientists identified epitopes that were similar in many influenza strains. "This is important because the influenza virus continually changes requiring scientists to develop a new vaccine every year," Sette said. "If we can find shared epitopes, it may be possible to develop an influenza vaccine with greater cross protection for many different viruses." Sette said the study found hundreds of similar epitopes among the different virus strains. However, it remains to be seen whether these epitopes are similar enough to enable the successful development of a highly cross reactive influenza vaccine that would protect against many viruses. And, in fact, the study found only one epitope that has been published, which appears to be an ideal candidate for creating a multi-strain influenza vaccine.

Regarding gaps in knowledge of the way people respond to influenza, Wilson said two significant points emerged. "One concern is that most of the current influenza research is based on strains maintained in the lab, rather than wild influenza strains. Since we know the virus mutates, research needs to be done using influenza strains currently circulating in the population, so-called 'wild' strains, rather than using strains propagated in the lab. "

Secondly, Wilson noted that the analysis showed that most of the detailed studies were done in animal models, primarily mice, with very little data coming from studies with humans or birds. Only one of the antibody epitopes came from a human. "This is understandable given the ethical and health issues of testing a potential pathogen in humans," Wilson said. "However, based on this information, I think the research community will pursue data directly relevant to human immunity to influenza virus to close those critical gaps."

Regarding the dreaded H5N1 avian flu specifically, the information showed some important H5N1 epitopes currently being investigated. However, the
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Source:La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology


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