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Flu News Friday 2/26/21

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

The Latest in Influenza Vaccines

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This article discusses why we need universal influenza vaccines — vaccines that would confer immune responses to a diverse set of influenza subtypes — and how past UIV research has informed research for universal coronavirus vaccines.

Healio interviews Aaron E. Glatt, MD, chairman of medicine, chief of infectious diseases and hospital epidemiologist at Mount Sinai South Nassau in Oceanside, New York, and professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, how close he thinks the world is to having a universal influenza vaccine and what it might look like.

In this study, scientists from the Nebraska Center for Virology and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital design a universal swine H3 influenza vaccine using a computational algorithm and an adenovirus vector. Compared to both inactivated and live attenuated control vaccines, the vaccine elicited significantly greater cross-reactive antibodies and T-cell responses in swine challenged with a diverse set of swine influenza H3 strains.

Experts warn there will be a significant resurgence of influenza next winter. Social distancing measures for COVID-19 led to remarkably low levels of activity for influenza and other infectious diseases. The article also explains why strain selection for the upcoming flu season’s vaccine has been difficult.

Universal influenza vaccines targeting hemagglutinin (HA) elicit suboptimal protection against multiple influenza strains. An alternative approach is to target the matrix protein 2 ectodomain (M2e) as it is an evolutionarily conserved portion of the virus. Scientists from the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University and the Institute of Experimental Medicine in Russia engineered a vaccine involving a reassortment influenza virus expressing the M2e domain. Mice primed with this virus exhibited antibody responses specific to the M2e region and T cell responses, and were protected against a broad set of influenza A viruses subtypes.

Seasonal influenza vaccine uptake among US adults aged 65 years or older remains suboptimal and stagnant. Further, there is growing concern around racial and ethnic disparities in uptake. The study aimed to assess racial and ethnic disparities in overall SIV and in high-dose vaccine (HDV) uptake among Medicare beneficiaries during the 2015–16 influenza season and sought to identify possible mediators for observed disparities.

The authors discuss why a universal coronavirus vaccine is needed, how the recent technological advances in multiple scientific disciplines have converged and paved the way for a new era of vaccine development, and why a global collaborative effort is needed to ultimately reach the goal of a universal vaccine.

Adjuvants or increasing vaccine antigen levels can help improve the efficacy of seasonal inactivated influenza vaccines. Scientists at the University of Hong Kong conducted a study to compare the immune responses of a standard vaccine versus three enhanced vaccines: an adjuvanted vaccine, a high dose vaccine, and a recombinant influenza vaccine. Each vaccine platform had an advantage over the standard-dose vaccine in terms of Natural Killer cell activation, hemagglutinin-stalk antibodies, and T cell responses. The study provides further immunological evidence for the preferential use of enhanced vaccine approaches in older adults.