New twist on a flu vaccine revs up the body’s army of virus killers | Science News

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New twist on a flu vaccine revs up the body’s army of virus killers

A vaccine made with a virus genetically tweaked to be quickly detected lets mice survive a lethal infection

3:42pm, January 19, 2018
map of flu activity

IT’S HERE  Flu activity is widespread across the county, with 32 states and Puerto Rico reporting high activity (orange to red) as of January 13, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sometimes an old fight needs a new hero. With the United States in the midst of a tough flu season — and with evidence from Australia that the current flu shot is only 10 percent effective against the strains responsible for most illnesses — a different approach to flu vaccine development may do the trick.

Vaccines traditionally protect against illness by stimulating antibodies to block viruses. In the case of influenza viruses, this strategy can fall short: Influenza antibodies are specific to one strain, which may not be among the strains causing illness during an outbreak. Instead, researchers developed a flu vaccine that ensures influenza viruses can’t escape the body’s first line of defense, a powerful antiviral system that enlists a cadre of immune proteins and cells.

“Because the virus is more visible to the host immune system,” says Ren Sun, a virologist at UCLA, “it stimulates a very strong immune response.”

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