Researcher taking shot at flu vaccine that’s more effective, easier to make

February 06, 2013 − by wpengine − in Archived − Comments Off on Researcher taking shot at flu vaccine that’s more effective, easier to make

February 6, 2013

Suresh Mittal flu

Purdue professor Suresh Mittal removes a sample of
cells used to grow a viral vector-based influenza vaccine with graduate
students (from left) Sai Vemula, Ahmed Hassan and Omar Amen. Mittal and his
students are working on a flu vaccine that offers broad protection against most
strains of the virus. (Purdue University photo/Jane Kovach)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – In the midst of an unusually deadly
flu season and armed with a vaccine that only offers partial protection, a Purdue University researcher is
working on a flu vaccine that overcomes the need to predict which strains will
hit each year and eliminates the common causes of vaccine shortages.

This
year’s vaccine is 62 percent effective or “moderately” effective
against the current flu strains, according to early estimates from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu-related deaths this season have reached
an epidemic level and include 45 children, according to the most recent report.

Suresh
Mittal, a professor of comparative pathobiology in Purdue’s College of
Veterinary Medicine, is applying a method he developed for an avian flu vaccine
to create a more universal seasonal flu vaccine. The vaccine’s protection could
persist through different strains and mutations of the influenza virus and
would not be dependent on accurate predictions of the strains expected each
season, he said.

“This
method allows us to create a vaccine that targets core parts of the influenza
virus that are found across all strains and don’t mutate or change
quickly,” Mittal said. “It also allows us to target multiple parts of
the virus, so that even if the virus adapts to one line of attack, there are
others that will still work to prevent the illness.”

The
method uses a harmless adenovirus as a vector to deliver influenza virus genes
into the body where they create a two-fold immune response of antibody and
cell-based protection. The adenovirus releases the genes inside the host cells,
which then create proteins that lead to the creation of antibodies and special
T-cells primed to kill influenza virus and any cells infected by it.

“This
method works beyond that of the current vaccine, in which the body responds to
inactivated virus proteins injected into a muscle,” Mittal said.
“Getting the influenza virus genes inside the cells better mimics an
infection and leads to a more powerful and multifaceted immune response, so we
are better prepared to fend off a true infection.”

Any
genes important to influenza virus protection can be incorporated into the adenovirus
vector, and it can be designed to expose the immune system to components from
both the surface and deep within the virus. In this way the immune system can
be primed to recognize portions of the virus that are the same across all
strains and those that are more difficult for the virus to change as it adapts
to the immune system attack, he said.

The
new vaccine also has manufacturing advantages over current methods because the
vector is easily grown in cell culture. The current flu vaccine depends on the
growth of influenza viruses in chicken eggs.

“Sometimes
the virus strains selected for the year’s vaccine do not grow well in an egg
and that can lead to delays or shortages of the vaccine,” Mittal said.
“The new method depends only on the growth of the virus vector, which we
know how to grow quite well. The influenza strains we select to include have no
effect on the growth or the amount of vaccine that can be made.”

Mittal
said vaccination is critical to save lives.

“We
don’t think of the flu as a killer, but it kills around 35,000 people each
year,” he said. “Even when the flu vaccine isn’t a perfect match, it
still offers the best protection. It also is important to get vaccinated to
help prevent the spread of the virus to those who are too young or too sick to
be vaccinated themselves.”

Writer: Elizabeth K. Gardner, 765-494-2081,
[email protected]

Source: Suresh Mittal, 765-496-2894, [email protected]

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