When vaccine stories develop, it’s hard to keep track of all the important information. Here’s what you need to know about the new research from University of Wisconsin - Madison scientist Yoshihiro Kawaoka that could lead to a more accurate flu vaccine.
It could lead to more accurate predictions of what flu strains will circulate
The flu vaccine's effectiveness varies from year to year. This is because scientists can't know for certain ahead of time which strains will be most prevalent in a given flu season, and some years the predictions are better than others. Kawaoka’s research mapped how flu viruses mutate to become resistant to antibodies. This could be used to predict the molecular structure of strains that will be prevalent in the next flu season.
This breakthrough builds on other research that could lead to a better vaccine
Kawaoka has also conducted research on the use of dog or monkey cells—rather than chicken eggs— to develop single cell flu vaccines. This would allow vaccines to be manufactured more quickly, thus being able to develop the flu vaccine closer to the flu season and improving the prediction of strains.
It’s sort of in legal limbo
Though Kawaoka and biosafety monitor Rebecca Moritz say the National Institute of Health has approved the research, the breakthrough is connected to previous research that has since been banned due to concerns about biosecurity.
It could be available for use relatively soon
Some of the co-authors of the report are members of the World Health Organization committee that selects the flu shot strain each year. Once the new method is ready to go, it could face a quick road to widespread use.
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