In DepthBiomedicine

Universal flu vaccine is ‘an alchemist's dream’

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Science  07 Dec 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6419, pp. 1094
DOI: 10.1126/science.362.6419.1094

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  • RE: Universal influenza vaccine candidates
    • Suzanne Epstein, Researcher, regulatory reviewer, research manager, FDA, CBER, OTAT

    The article, “Universal flu vaccine is an ‘alchemist’s dream’” by Jon Cohen (Dec. 7, 2018, issue of Science) stated that no one has found target antigens capable of stimulating immune responses protective against most flu viruses that infect humans. The article discussed hemagglutinin and neuraminidase but did not mention highly conserved antigens nucleoprotein (NP) and matrix (M). Extensive studies show that these antigens can induce immune responses in animals protective against challenge with a broad range of influenza viruses of diverse subtypes, and such vaccines are currently under study in humans. While much remains to be investigated, these universal vaccine targets should be part of the discussion.

    Protective immunity to these highly conserved antigens has long been studied (1-5). Findings of many investigators, reviewed for example in (6, 7), show that in animals, vaccine candidates based on NP and M achieve several milestones important for protection against pandemics or unexpected strains. Such vaccine candidates protect against challenge infection with both group 1 and group 2 influenza A viruses, including H1, H2, H3, H5, and H9 (8). Protection by a single intranasal dose is seen after as little as 2 weeks and is long-lasting (at least 10 months)(9). The NP of influenza B can protect against influenza B of both lineages (10). This type of vaccination reduces transmission despite absence of neutralizing antibodies(11). Immunity to NP and M is not steri...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.