Flu vaccine advancements and a flu season update

By: February 25th, 2009 Email This Post Print This Post

Infection preventionists, emergency management officials, and nearly every other health organization across the globe has expressed a concern about how to handle a pandemic flu. Many experts believe it’s only a matter of time before another pandemic occurs.

But researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Center, Burnham Institute for Medical Research, and the CDC may have at least taken a step in the right direction in developing a universal flu vaccine for preventing and treating influenza. This discovery was reported in an online edition of Nature Structural and Molecular Biology on February 22.

The researchers have engineered antibodies that protect against multiple strains of the flu including the 1918 Spanish flu, and H5N1 bird flu. Although this doesn’t mean a new vaccine has been created, it is a significant step in developing a universal vaccine which would not have to be changed yearly. It could also be developed to prevent or treat the virus during a pandemic.

“This is a really good study,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told the New York Times. “It’s not yet at the point of practicality, but the concept is really quite interesting.”

Fauci was not part of the study, but said the institute will offer the researchers grants and access to ferrets, which can catch human flu.

In related news, it seems the flu season is in full swing in many parts of the country according to Google Flu Trends. The CDC confirmed that influenza activity has increased nationwide particularly in parts of the east coast such as New England, the Northwest, and Mountain regions. Last week, 37 of the 51 juriscitions reported regional or widespread activity, and six influenza-related pediatric deaths were reported, bringing the 2008-2009 total to nine.

For more information about pandemic planning in the physician’s office, check out the free downloadable checklist, from the Infection Control Manual for the Physician’s Office.

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