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Flu News Friday 7/16/21

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

Image credit: “Parent holding a nasal spray near his daugher’s face.” by shixart1985 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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 previously developed an intranasal, adjuvant-based Influenza A nucleoprotein vaccine that demonstrated strong CD4 and CD8 T cell memory in lungs and protected against H1N1 and H5N1 strains of IAV. This study explores the cellular interactions between C-C chemokine receptor type 2 (CCR2) and monocytes and the vaccine’s effect on generating and maintaining T cell memory in the respiratory tract. The findings have implications for the development of broadly protective influenza vaccines focused on the induction of frontline T-cell immunity.

After monitoring 74,000 SARS-CoV-2 patients, researchers found that individuals who had received an influenza vaccine 2–6 months prior to COVID-19 infection were at a lower risk of sepsis, stroke, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), ICU admission, and emergency department visits after a SARS-CoV-2-positive diagnosis. The authors suggest the protective effect of influenza vaccines for reducing COVID-19 morbidity and mortality, emphasizing the benefit for populations who may limited access to COVID-19 vaccines. To account for these findings, many theories posit the flu vaccine leads to an overall boost in strength of the innate immune system.The findings were presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID).

Note: a flu vaccine should not serve as a replacement for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Moderna announced the start of phase 1/2 trial in humans to evaluate the safety, immunogenicity, and reactogenicity of their new quadrivalent seasonal influenza vaccine candidate utilizing the mRNA platform. The vaccine is designed to have greater efficacy and production speed than current seasonal influenza vaccines, particularly egg-based vaccines which can involve unintended, adaptive mutations, making them vulnerable to strain mismatch between circulating and selected vaccine strains. Moderna has a goal to develop a combination respiratory vaccine that would provide protection against influenza, SARS-CoV-2, and human metapneumovirus (hMPV).

Scientists are working to predict immunogenic hemagglutinin (HA) epitopes using bioinformatics tools. In this study, the HA protein of the Influenza A H9N2 strain was expressed in E. coli vector to produce a recombinant influenza vaccine candidate. The vaccine demonstrated HA antibody specificity through antigen-antibody reaction immunogenicity in a mouse model. The authors emphasize that a bacterial expression vaccine system could be an advantageous alternative to egg-based vaccines for its production efficiency.

An intranasal universal vaccine candidate demonstrates broad, long-lasting immune protection. The single dose vaccine is comprised of recombinant, replication-deficient adenoviruses expressing nucleoproteins (NP) from Influenza A and B and the matrix protein 2 (M2) ectodomain. Compared to intramuscular injection, intranasal immunization is a non-invasive route that induces not only systemic immunity but also mucosal immunity, and does not require trained health workers to administer, making the UIV candidate potentially more accessible.

This analysis estimates the population outcomes resulting from the introduction of a quadrivalent, plant-based seasonal influenza vaccine utilizing virus-like particles, compared to a traditional egg-based seasonal influenza vaccine in Canda. Compared to egg-based vaccines, the quadrivalent, plant-derived vaccine was associated with fewer influenza cases and reduced numbers of hospital admissions for both 18 to 64 and 65+ age groups. While the study has an in-country focus, it adds to the growing evidence supporting the development of novel alternatives to egg-based flu vaccine technology.

The G20 High Level Independent Panel on Financing the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response proposes a Global Deal for pandemics, calling for strengthening global governance, increasing sustained investment of global public goods (including vaccines and surveillance), and building up resilient health systems in countries regardless of income level. While the report calls for a new global governance and financing mechanism, the proposed mechanisms should complement existing institutions and their partnerships. While the investments would be significant, they dwarf in comparison to the economic and societal costs of a pandemic. The G20 will be considering the Panel’s recommendations prior to the Joint Finance and Health Ministers meeting in October.

Researchers examine the effect of mutations and their genetic interactions giving rise to two naturally isolated broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs), antibodies with binding affinity to a diverse set of influenza virus antigens. Understanding these selection pathways is important for the prediction, design, and elicitation of bnAbs for influenza vaccines and treatments.