HEALTH

Researchers discover how to make flu shots more effective

BY Michael Johnsen

Researchers have identified a way that might make future flu shots more effective, according to a paper published last week in the journal Cell.

According to the paper, influenza vaccines that better target the surface protein called neuraminidase, which represent the red inserts in the picture above, could offer broad protection against various influenza virus strains and lessen the severity of illness. Current seasonal influenza vaccines mainly target a different, more abundant influenza surface protein called hemagglutinin – the blue inserts in the photo.

For now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended people get their flu shots without regard to preliminary vaccine effectiveness estimates. Early estimates of vaccine effectiveness for this past season was reported to be 25% against the season’s predominant influenza A H3N2 virus, according to the CDC. “The interim estimate of 25% VE against A(H3N2) viruses this season indicates that vaccination provided some protection,” the CDC noted. “With interim VE estimates of 67% and 42% against influenza A(H1N1) and B viruses, respectively, vaccination provided substantial protection against circulating A(H1N1) viruses, as well as moderate protection against influenza B viruses predominantly belonging to the B/Yamagata lineage, the second influenza type B component included in quadrivalent vaccines.”

The new research builds on previous studies of NA and was conducted by a team of scientists including investigators from the Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance program, which is organized and funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.

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