Using human nasal tract cells, researchers have gained greater insight into a more effective vaccine against influenza that could particularly benefit children and elderly patients. The results of this study have been published in the journal Vaccine.

Andrew Pekosz, PhD, from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, and colleagues used a weakened strain of the flu virus that is used in the nasal spray vaccine currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and nasal tract cells to evaluate immune response and the behavior of the flu virus itself. The weakened flu virus behaved differently than previous research had suggested, as at the end of the life cycle of the weakened virus, virus-infected cells sent out harmless, non-infectious particles that immune cells picked up and attacked to create antibodies against an actual flu virus that could attempt to infect the body later. However, this response was not as robust as the researchers had anticipated.

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The study also found that contrary to prior studies, all nine mutations in the flu virus vaccine appear to be important in the body’s immune response. Dr. Pekosz noted that by making adjustments to those mutations, a stronger vaccine could be produced without an increase in side effects, along with a weaker one that could still protect children under the age of 2.

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