Key facts -
- If all goes according to plan, the annual flu shot protects about 60 percent of vaccinated people.
- Last month Bill Gates announced his foundation will be earmarking up to $12 million to advance such work
- Sen. Edward Markey (D–Mass.) introduced a bill in February that would provide $1 billion in government funding for a universal flu vaccine.
- The White House also gave a nod to the universal flu vaccine; its Office of Science and Technology Policy tweeted in March it is “closer than ever.”
- “It’s a scientific challenge because there are still so many things we don’t know,” says Anthony Fauci, director of the NIAID. And even if such a vaccine were developed, a perfect inoculation that protects against all flu types, is “unattainable,” he says.
- The more we learn the less we understand,” says Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy.
- Moreover, beyond clinical trials and regulatory hurdles there are also a vast array of technical roadblocks ahead, which include making these shots profitable for developers yet affordable for consumers and deciding who should receive these inoculations—and when.
- Researchers are also realizing the first flu virus we are exposed to in life may play a larger role in immunity than previously thought, shaping our response to all flu viruses we encounter in the future—a concept often referred to as imprinting.
- Earlier this month the National Institutes of Health announced one experimental vaccine, M-001, is headed into phase II clinical trials.
- M-001 consists of nine epitopes—short stretches of viral protein—that were carefully selected because they are shared across many different influenza strains.
- the M-001 formulation was chosen because these tiny epitopes spark both T cell and B cell immune responses.
- The M-001 vaccine approach is exciting, says Kathleen Sullivan, chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who was not involved in the work.
- An adult with decades of immune responses to various flu strains may not respond as well as an infant to a universal flu vaccine because the adult’s immune system has already been primed to other types of influenza, Fauci notes. With this question in mind, researchers are hoping to launch more studies of our early-life imprinting.
- NIAID put out a call last month for proposals to enroll pregnant women and their infants in long-term studies to see how flu strains circulating in a given birth year, vaccination status and natural infections influence flu immunity.
- Eventually, Fauci says, he expects “we will go through universal influenza vaccine 1.0, 2.0 and so on that will protect against different viruses.”
That's a lot of key fact with a lot of key people. Just looking at the issue of mechanism, at the science -- in this increasing age of autoimmunity, shouldn't there be a concern for tinkering with both B and T cells, at the very minimum?
Molecular Mimicry as a Mechanism of Autoimmune Disease - "Unfortunately, there are a variety of mechanisms including molecular mimicry, bystander activation, exposure of cryptic antigens, and superantigens by which pathogens can aid in the expression of an autoimmune disease [16–21]. Inflammation induced by exposure to a foreign antigen can lead to autoimmune diseases from cross-reactive epitopes (molecular mimicry). These epitopes are segments of foreign antigens which, when presented to either T or B cells in the context of the MHC, can activate CD4+or CD8+ T cells. The induction of the immune response and subsequent proinflammatory cytokine release is critical for clearance of a virus or bacteria. However, a sustained proinflammatory response against specific host tissues can occur when there is sequence or structural homology between foreign antigens and self-antigens, termed molecular mimicry"......................
Teresa Conrick is Science Editor for Age of Autism.