Supplementing seasonal flu vaccines with a viral protein that remains relatively constant may provide broader protection against emerging flu strains such as the 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain, scientists from Emory University School of Medicine have shown. The results are published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.
Public health authorities are often playing catch-up when choosing which viral strains will go into the season’s flu shot, because of the influenza virus’ ability to change quickly and incorporate genetic information from viruses that infect animals such as pigs and chickens.
To meet this challenge, Emory researchers combined a vaccine made from a standard laboratory strain with virus-like particles (VLPs) containing M2, a viral protein that changes relatively little compared with other parts of the virus. These particles are shells that look like viruses but can’t replicate.