Immune to flu after swine flu infection?

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Immune to flu after swine flu infection: H1N1 virus provides the basis for the development of a universal vaccine

People who have survived swine flu infection are protected from a variety of the common flu viruses. In the online edition of the journal "Journal of Experimental Medicine", US researchers report that infection with the H1N1 virus apparently leads to the formation of special antibodies that provide "exceptional immune protection" against numerous strains of influenza.

Swine flu leads to the formation of special antibodies. In spite of the deaths and the excitement of its recurrence, swine flu has a positive effect for some people. After surviving infection with the H1N1 pathogen, special antibodies have formed in the body that can fight a variety of different flu viruses, the US researchers led by Patrick Wilson from the University of Chicago report. The formation of correspondingly diverse antibodies was favored by the special, different structure of the H1N1 virus. Because the swine flu pathogens are only identical in parts to other influenza pathogens that are essential for the functioning of the viruses, explained Patrick Wilson and colleagues. Since all influenza viruses have these characteristics, the antibodies that are formed can successfully combat not only the swine flu pathogen but also numerous different strains of the flu virus, the scientists continue. "While the flu changes from year to year, some core elements have remained the same for almost a century," said Wilson.

Antibodies protect against numerous influenza strains In order to prevent the spread of influenza pathogens in the body, the immune system develops specific antibodies that attach to the viruses and switch them off. The US researchers have now taken a closer look at the antibodies that form in the course of a swine flu infection and which influenza viruses they attach to using samples from eight swine flu patients. As part of their study, the scientists analyzed and replicated 86 different antibodies from the patients' blood, which they then tested in laboratory experiments on mice. The researchers were particularly interested in the flu strains to which the antibodies attached and how the flu infections occurred in the animals. Patrick Wilson and colleagues found that five antibodies targeted all H1N1 strains over the past decade. These include the virus that caused the devastating Spanish flu in 1918 and the so-called bird flu virus, which could be extremely dangerous for humans. This means that people who have swine flu infections are not only protected against future infections with H1N1 pathogens, but also have human antibodies that are also effective against numerous other strains of flu, the US researchers explained.

The holy grail of vaccine research The results of the US scientists also open up new scope in the development of flu vaccines. Patrick Wilson was almost euphoric about the results and emphasized that the antibodies discovered for vaccine research were "something like the Holy Grail". Her study results show "what you need to look out for when making a flu vaccine so that it can work for years, not just for a winter," Wilson said. In fact, with the help of the results of the US researchers, progress in the search for effective flu vaccine protection could finally be achieved if the antibodies produced in the course of the swine flu infection can be used. A vaccine with such a broad spectrum of activity would represent an important step in the fight against influenza, according to the US researchers. Patrick Wilson rated this study result to the Daily Mail newspaper as "sensational" because "it shows how you can make a single vaccine that makes you immune to all types of flu."

New hope for an efficient flu vaccine So far, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a recommendation each year on which virus strains the seasonal flu vaccine should contain Flu cases worldwide and annually names corresponding virus strains that should be contained in the vaccine. The vaccine serum generally contains components from three different virus strains, with an H1N1 strain, an H3N2 strain and a strain of B-flu viruses being used for several years since these are the most common influenza pathogens. However, the US researchers hope that the annual vaccination procedure can be significantly simplified with the help of the swine flu pathogen. The scientists are working flat out to develop a vaccine that could protect against all H1N1 strains and ideally against all influenza agents.

In a next step, the US researchers also want to investigate whether the current swine flu vaccine already has a broader effect than originally thought and thus also works against other virus strains. Stephan Ludwig, influenza expert at the University of Münster, emphasized that he thought this was likely, but that a reliable prediction was not possible "because an infection is always different from a vaccination." A new one, based on the discovered antibodies According to the US researchers, vaccine could be available within the next 10 years and, at best, should only be administered once in a lifetime. The vaccination with the reproduced antibodies had already worked for the mice and the animals were even protected if they received vaccination 60 hours after the infection, Wilson and colleagues emphasized. (fp)

Also read:
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Swine flu: number of new infections increases
Swine flu is back: RKI recommends vaccination
Swine flu is no reason to panic

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