A mathematical model and a bit of history: a new approach to creating a universal flu vaccine

SL, Понедельник 24 Сентябрь 2018 - 15:50:29

The flu is one of the most common viral infections. According to who estimates, in the world annually from three to five million "severe cases" of infection, 260-500 thousand of them are fatal. The most vulnerable children, the elderly and patients with weakened immune systems.

The best method of protection against influenza is vaccination, but not all current vaccines are quite effective and affordable. In addition, flu shots should be done regularly and vaccination schedule not everyone follow. As a result of epidemics caused by influenza A occur about every two to three years, caused by influenza type In – every four to six years.

Another problem is that the virus strains are constantly mutating and changing.

Therefore, researchers are working on a universal vaccine. One option is a DNA vaccine that protects the body even from a virus with genetic changes.

Now, researchers from the University of Oxford in the UK it introduced an entirely new approach to vaccine development. They focused on the study of the structure of the virus and found its "Achilles ' heel".

The authors explain: although influenza is one of the most variable virus, with many genetic variations in seasonal epidemics dominated by only a few specific strains.

For 20 years, the team has developed a special mathematical model to track changes of the virus. Precisely this interdisciplinary approach will help "revolutionize" the vaccine, as well as useful in the fight against other pathogens, says one of the lead authors of the work of Craig Thompson (Craig Thompson).

As you know, the influenza virus has a spherical shape, it is a kind of ball with a diameter of 80-120 nm, covered with "spikes" which consist of proteins – hemagglutinin and neuraminidase – and helps the virus cling to the host cell. These proteins may be a sharp change in properties, leading to the emergence of new forms of the virus. And not activated versions of these proteins usually form the basis of influenza vaccines.

However, mathematical models have helped track the evolutionary dynamics of the virus and to detect "structural units" which are "limited variability". These sites are called epitopes, and the body's immune system is able to recognize them.

Analysis of patient data and study of numerous samples over the past decade has shown that some parts of the virus comprising of hemagglutinin, virtually unchanged for 80 years.

Scientists have created based on these specific versions of proteins antiviral vaccines and checked their effect on laboratory mice. One group of rodents were vaccinated with the identified epitopes, the second group were vaccinated with a drug containing other epitopes, mice from the third group introduced "about the vaccine" (a complex of substances to enhance the immune response), and the control group were left without vaccine.

When followed by an immune response (mice began to produce antibodies), they were infected with different modern and "historic" strains of flu which were recorded since 1918.

Observations have shown that the vaccine protected animals in cases when the version of the immutable hemagglutinin in a pair of "pathogen – vaccine" match. So, the drug with the epitopes of the virus strains that spread in 2006 and 1977, protected mice from versions of flu, walk around the world in 1934.

These results can be used to create a new type of versatile and highly effective vaccine that can provide lifetime protection against the flu, say the authors.

They also note that the same approach can be applied in the development of drugs against other viruses, for example HIV and hepatitis C, and "cold" pathogens.

It is noted that the new method will allow health systems to save a lot of money: no longer need to produce many new drugs and vaccination of the population annually.

Scientific article on the results of this study were published in the journal Nature Microbiology.

We will add that earlier scientists have discovered a gene that determines sensitivity to influenza. Also, the authors of the project "Conduct.Science" (nauka.vesti.ru) told me about a new test that will show whether the patient's flu vaccine.

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