March 5, 2018Immunology
Good news, hopefully, for those of us who know what it is like to get the flu.
Developing a universal influenza vaccine -- a vaccine that can provide durable protection for all age groups against multiple influenza strains, including those that might cause a pandemic -- is a priority for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.
According to an article published in Journal of Infectious Diseases (28 February 2018), NIAID officials detail the Institute's new strategic plan for addressing the research areas essential to creating a safe and effective universal influenza vaccine. They describe the scientific goals that will be supported to advance influenza vaccine development. The strategic plan builds upon a workshop NIAID convened in June 2017 that gathered scientists from academia, industry and government who developed criteria for defining a universal influenza vaccine, identified knowledge gaps, and delineated research strategies for addressing those gaps.
The cornerstone of both seasonal and pandemic influenza prevention and control is the development of vaccines against specific influenza strains that pose a potentially significant risk to the public. Seasonal influenza vaccines are made anew each year to best match the strains projected to circulate in the upcoming season. However, this approach has limitations and difficulties. To reduce the public health consequences of both seasonal and pandemic influenza, vaccines must be more broadly and durably protective. Advances in influenza virology, immunology and vaccinology make the development of a universal influenza vaccine more feasible than a decade ago, according to the authors. To develop a universal influenza vaccine, NIAID will focus resources on three key areas of influenza research: improving the understanding of the transmission, natural history and pathogenesis of influenza infection; precisely characterizing how protective influenza immunity occurs and how to tailor vaccination responses to achieve it; and supporting the rational design of universal influenza vaccines, including designing new immunogens and adjuvants to boost immunity and extend the duration of protection.