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Flu News Friday 7/9/21

Read the latest on influenza vaccines in this week’s roundup.

The Latest in Influenza Vaccines

Conference Announcement: The Eighth ESWI Influenza Conference is December 4th to 7th, 2021. Join colleagues and peers from around the world in Salzburg for the largest conference dedicated to influenza, RSV disease and Covid-19. Register here. Abstracts are due September 3, 2021; submit abstracts here.

Scientists studied influenza virus infection intranasally and its relationship to the induction of broad immune protection. Viral entry and subsequent replication in the respiratory tract promotes a structural change in hemagglutinin (HA) exposing B cells to previously hidden shared epitopes. Together, the exposure of common epitopes of different viral serotypes and the efficient proliferation of B cells in germinal centers is critical for the generation of broadly protective antibodies. The findings provide insight for the development of intranasal vaccines and the mechanisms that generate broad protection from influenza.

A symposium focusing on gathering attendees to develop real-world solutions for women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). Participants will connect with colleagues and mentors and devise strategies to keep girls in STEM and support women in STEM at the beginning, middle, and late career stages. Full and partial scholarships are available. Register here.

Four cases of oseltamivir-resistant influenza A infections (pH1N1) were detected among inhabitants of a border detention center in Texas, USA. The viruses belong to an hemagglutinin (HA) antigenically drifted subclade, which may enable viral escape from pre-existing immunity elicited by previous vaccinations and natural infections.

Researchers identify a molecule influencing influenza disease severity in the lungs, Decay-Accelerating Factor (DAF). DAF is a protein found at the surface of most cells that normally protects healthy cells from attack from the host’s own immune responses, through the complement cascade. However, influenza exploits the function of DAF and exacerbates the activation of complement pathway, leading to severe lung immunopathology. Understanding the role of DAF and the modulation of complement activation may help scientists understand why increased pathogenicity is observed in individuals with zoonotic and pandemic influenza A infections.

A particular birth cohort shares similar influenza infection histories. For a given cohort, the first strains encountered led to the strongest memory of those strains and may influence subsequent influenza infections, known as immune imprinting. This article reviews the birth-year-specific (cohort) differences in immune imprinting, influenza susceptibility and vaccine effectiveness, and how to approach the study of influenza’s differing antigenic evolution among different cohorts, and in some cohorts, escape immunity.

Scientists review the roles of genomic sequencing to characterize and understand the transmission patterns and mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Notably, many of the systems used to sequence SARS-CoV-2 were drawn from influenza programs. They conclude that in low- and middle-income countries, in addition to addressing inequities in vaccine distribution, scaling up sequencing capacity for active surveillance is important as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and to prepare for future infectious disease threats, such as influenza.

Scientists study influenza vaccination in pregnant women and its impact on modulating gene expression for the both arms of the immune system. Influenza vaccines are not approved for infants less than six months of age, heightening the importance of vaccination during pregnancy due to infants’ reliance on maternal antibodies for protection from influenza. This study found that vaccination of individuals during pregnancy elicits enhanced expression of interferon-stimulated genes and plasma cell genes, correlating with antibody responses.

Influenza circulation and viral reassortment in pigs poses a public health risk due the possibility of animal to human spillover. In North America, pig exhibitions in agricultural fairs can be a source of such zoonotic transmission. Scientists studied the effect of swine vaccination on the swine-human interface using ferrets and pigs. Ferrets are a commonly used animal model for humans due to similar patterns of influenza attachment in the respiratory tract. It was concluded influenza vaccination of pigs reduces viral shedding in both pigs and humans and pigs should be vaccinated before fairs.

STAT reviews the challenges of developing temperature stable and single dose vaccines. Thermostable and low-dose vaccines have the potential to increase vaccine accessibility, particularly in low- and middle-income countries and low resourced areas, not just for the COVID-19 pandemic, but for next-generation influenza vaccines as well.

Sanofi and Translate Bio have initiated a phase 1 clinical trial to evaluate the safety and immunogenicity of a monovalent mRNA influenza vaccine using liponanoparticle technology. The vaccine codes for the hemagglutinin (HA) surface protein of the H3N2 strain of the influenza A virus. This is the first clinical trial for a seasonal influenza vaccine using the mRNA platform.