Flu News Day, 8/17/2022
Articles featured in August 17th’s Flu News Day discuss the UK’s preparedness for the upcoming flu season, the potential for a more severe flu season than that of 2021 and ongoing updates on universal influenza vaccine development. Read more to catch up on the latest in influenza news and funding.
Is the UK prepared for seasonal influenza in 2022–23 and beyond?
Considering data from Australia’s current influenza season, researchers warn that action is needed to properly prepare the UK for the upcoming influenza season. Influenza A (primarily H3N2) has infected a notably large amount of Australia’s population and witnessing the abnormally early Australian season has given countries like the UK time to prepare for the expected threat. Researchers suggest that the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization reconsider their decision to remove those aged 50-64 and 11-15 from those eligible to receive the vaccine, especially as those 11-15 are highly responsible for disease transmission. Vaccinating these age groups will be essential for successful disease prevention; read more about the need for early vaccination campaigns to address the decline in influenza vaccination rates reported during the COVID-19 pandemic here.
Flu may be coming back with a vengeance, experts say, and children could be at risk
Data from the Southern Hemisphere suggests that the Northern Hemisphere should be bracing for an influenza season potentially more severe than pre-pandemic levels, highlighting the importance of receiving a COVID-19 booster and seasonal influenza vaccine in the fall. After two years of low influenza circulation, the high number of influenza cases and infections being reported in the Southern Hemisphere may be due to the season beginning earlier, increased transmission, or lowered natural immunity. The latter contributes to greater risk among children with those aged 5-9 experiencing higher rates of influenza than any other age group this year, followed by other minors. To learn more about what may be in store for the 2022-23 influenza season, read here.
Progress towards the Development of a Universal Influenza Vaccine
Given the constraints of current seasonal influenza vaccines and their vulnerability to antigenic shift, there are many ongoing research projects aimed at creating a much-needed universal influenza vaccine (UIV). After the success of the mRNA platform for development of COVID-19 vaccines, some assumed this would also be the way forward for a UIV. Yet, mRNA was one of many platforms tested for COVID-19 and, similarly, the development of a universal influenza vaccine must be approached via diverse platforms to find one best for eliciting broad protection to a highly mutable virus. One of the scientific hurdles to achieving a UIV is that conserved portions of the virus are typically less immunogenic, for example the HA head versus the more conserved stalk domains. To address the immunodominance of the HA head over the stalk, researchers are experimenting with virus-like particles, sequential Chimeric HA and mosaic HA, hyperglycosylation of HA, as well as innovative vaccine platforms including nanoparticle, viral vector, and nucleic acid based vaccines. To learn more about each of these ongoing approaches towards universal vaccine development, read the literature review here.