One shot lifelong vaccine may be possible in near future
Taking vaccine shots is something that is done from the moment we are born. We get vaccines for much of our young life to keep us safe from possible viruses that can proof fatal to infants due to their developing immune system.
Also in adult life, we need to take vaccines for seasonal viruses like flu or if we visit a foreign country whose environment is alien to us. But all this multiple vaccine system may now be a thing of past. A new research has been working on a one shot vaccine that will not only keep us safe from already present viruses, but will also keep us safe in future also.
Read further to know more about this all in one vaccine.
1 What are vaccines?
Vaccines are products that produces immunity from a certain disease or virus and is administered via an injection or by mouth. A vaccination is an injection of a killed or weakened organism that produces immunity in body from that organism.
Vaccinations and vaccines have helped save millions of people from diseases like measles, chicken pox, polio, flu, tetanus, TB, whooping cough and typhoid. Especially it is necessary for parents to administer some essential vaccines and vaccinations to new born babies so that they can built immunity to some seriously dangerous diseases.
And vaccines are completely safe and do not cause any type of malformation or disease in new born babies as some of the anti-vaccine warriors have been saying at the top of their voice in recent times.
2 Conventional flu vaccines
The efficiency and effectiveness of flu vaccines fluctuate from year to year, and the reason is simple. There are three major types of the influenza virus namely A, B and C which are further subdivided into many different strain and lineages, based on the type of proteins that scatter on the surface of these viruses.
Most orthodox flu vaccines are designed to target the head of a lollipop-shaped molecule called hemagglutinin (HA) that tends to protrude from the surface of flu viruses. Since HA heads are unique to each flu strain, each vaccine has to be separately designed to target that particular strain of the virus.
So each flu season, doctors are forced to make informed guesses on 3-4 strains of flu virus that they can include in the vaccine. This decision is made by WHO, CDC and other health organisations and is dependent on data obtained from previous outbreaks and people affected by them.
3 The new research
Recently new research has come forth in which two teams independently described a new way to create new vaccines by targeting a comparatively stable part of the HA molecule — the stem.
Both the teams started with the H1N1 virus, and used normal design to slowly separate the heads away from the stems, resulting in creation of stem-only antigens for the immune system to make anti bodies against.
The first team was led by Dr. Barney Graham and was stationed at the National Institute of Health, gradually constructed a headless HA molecule that they attached to self-assembled nanoparticles in order to increase the mutated HA’s capability to cause an immune response.
The second team was led by Dr. Antonietta Impagliazzo at the Crucell Vaccine Institute, which tampered with the amino acids that made up the HA stem to a point up until they were successful in creating a steady mini-HA which lacked a head and that retained the 3D structure of the original stem.
4 Results of Team 1
When this altered vaccine was given to mice and ferrets infested with several non-targeted flu strains, the vaccine was successful in preventing weight loss that regularly happens after infection of flu in the animals.
The improved HA molecule was also successful in saving four out of six ferrets that were infected with a extremely lethal dose of the H5 bird virus, whereas all of the untreated ferrets died.
5 Results of Team 2
When the second team administered their version of the modified vaccine into the mice that were infected by the strains of flu, the mini-HA was successful in causing a response from the immune system of the mice, which successfully protected the mice form lethal doses of several strains of influenza, and also protected five out of six cynomolgus monkeys from the swine flu-induced fever.
6 What does it means for us humans?
Though the results were positive, to be clear these are not truly universal vaccines. But the success of the 2 teams, is a very big step forward, meaning that we may be able to produce a similar vacien that would work on protecting against two other epidemic causing strains.
The biggest test is now to engineer the vaccines in such a way that they work in humans and the process can take several years. But the scientists are very hopeful since genetic difference between humans and animals mean that human might give a more stronger response to the vaccine than that given by mice, ferrets and monkeys.