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Better by design: Engineering flu vaccines
Date:3/17/2009

test how effective a vaccine will be against divergent strains. To verify this, the team checked their results against flu vaccine data collected by the World Health Organization from 1971 to 2004.

"For seasonal influenza, we validated our model against observational data compiled by the World Health Organization's Global Influenza Surveillance Network," Deem said. "We also ran tests against bird flu data. We found that multiple-component bird flu vaccines appeared to be helpful in controlling the simultaneous multiple introduction of bird flu strains."

Influenza viruses are like chameleons. They constantly change the patterns on their outer surface to avoid being targeted by antibodies. This rapid mutation rate is the reason seasonal flu vaccines must be changed annually. However, the vaccines sometimes offer less than ideal protection against newly evolved strains. It takes about six months to produce annual vaccine supplies; also, ideal vaccine strains are often difficult to produce by the standard hen's egg technology, and alternative strains are substituted.

"Oftentimes, bird flu seems to emerge with multiple strains, and something similar can happen with newly released or evolved strains of seasonal flu as well," Deem said. The computational approach Deem will discuss is able to estimate the need for and the efficacy of a multiple-component vaccine in the face of the emergence of multiple flu strains.

Each year, world health authorities create a flu vaccine that protects against three types of seasonal flu -- two subtypes of type A flu and one subtype of type B.


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Contact: Jade Boyd
jadeboyd@rice.edu
713-348-6778
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert  

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