Flu breakthrough after beers
THE next generation of flu vaccines is in the pipeline, thanks to a chat over a few beers after a long day in the lab.
THE next generation of flu vaccines is in the pipeline, thanks to a chat over a few beers after a long day in the lab.And, if they work as planned, the vaccines will provide enduring immunity against many strains of flu known, unknown and potentially lethal. Further, the vaccines may also fight other diseases, from hepatitis C and HIV-AIDS to cancer.”We were talking over beers . . . and then we started developing the idea,” said Stephen Turner, a viral immunologist who at the time was working with Australian Nobel prize-winning immunologist Peter Doherty’s laboratory at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.That was 18 months ago. Today, the international team, from Professor Doherty’s Memphis laboratory and his new University of Melbourne laboratory, have published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.Their experiments with mice showed that they could make vaccines based on a part of the immune system T-cell mediated responses not used in conventional antibody-based vaccines. “The work shows us how these sorts of responses work,” Professor Doherty said.”It reveals some of the basic rules behind these T-cell responses.”Thinking laterally, the team suggested that T-cell vaccines could be combined with traditional antibody-based vaccines to kick-start an earlier and more effective response to infection than occurs now.Further, because the vaccines would target two key bits of the flu bug’s genetic code, which change very slowly and are shared by virtually all strains of influenza one jab should last for years, protecting against any flu viruses with the “conserved” components.Professor Steve Wesselingh, director of Melbourne’s Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health, said: “There’s absolutely no doubt that the next generation of vaccines must, in part, generate T-cell responses.”(Source: The Australian, Leigh Dayton, Science writer, June 03, 2003)