Seasonal Flu Vaccine May Help Protect Against Bird Flu

Seasonal Flu Vaccine Can Offer Cross-Protection Against H7N9
Seasonal Flu Vaccine Can Offer Cross-Protection Against H7N9

(HealthDay News) — Seasonal influenza vaccines trigger immune system protection against the H7N9 influenza virus, according to a study published online Feb. 17 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

"We have clear evidence that a normal immune response to flu vaccination offers protection against dangerous and highly unique strains of influenza such as H7N9," study co-senior author Patrick Wilson, Ph.D., an associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, said in a university news release. "We now need to develop ways of amplifying this response."

The researchers tested 83 immune system antibodies from 28 people who received a seasonal flu vaccine. Of those antibodies, 7 percent reacted against rare H7 virus strains, even though those strains were not specifically targeted by the seasonal flu vaccines. Three of the antibodies appeared to completely neutralize the H7N9 influenza virus, and these findings were confirmed in tests in mice.

"It appears more common than previously thought for antibodies induced by flu vaccination to offer cross-protection against H7N9," study author Carole Henry, Ph.D., also of the University of Chicago, said in the news release. "Although they are not always protective, H7-reactive antibodies can be found in almost everyone who has been vaccinated," she added.

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