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All-weather vaccine candidate found against all flu viruses

The COVID-19 virus continues to mutate and spread. Influenza is also one of the viruses that mutate frequently. Since different types of influenza are prevalent every year, it is the orthodox that a different vaccine should be administered each year.

Recently, the Scripps Research Institute in the US announced in the international scientific journal ‘Nature’ a ‘universal’ vaccine candidate that can protect against all influenza regardless of mutation. Studies have shown that it can protect against several types of influenza, including the H1N1 mutant virus that caused the 2009 influenza pandemic.

The researchers focused on areas where mutations do not occur easily in the influenza virus. Two types of proteins, hemagglutanin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA), protrude from the surface of influenza virus. The types of viruses such as H1N1 and H3N2 are determined by the types of the two proteins. So far, 18 subtypes of HA have been identified (H1~H18) and 11 subtypes of NA have been identified (N1~N11). It is the shape of the outwardly extending ‘head’ that determines the subtype of HA. For this reason, most vaccines are designed to make antibodies that match the shape of the HA head.

Conversely, the research team determined that the site corresponding to the ‘foot’ of HA was the ‘Achilles’ heel’ of influenza. It was predicted that it would be able to protect against all influenza because it is a site that binds to a virus and has little mutation.

The researchers extracted 358 different antibodies from the blood of people who received the seasonal influenza vaccine, were infected with influenza, or received the universal vaccine in clinical trials. Among them, an antibody that binds near the foot of HA was isolated, and the site where these antibodies bind in common was named ‘anchor’.

Among these antibodies, the research team isolated 34 antibodies with high binding affinity to the anchor. Under laboratory conditions, these antibodies prevented H1N1 influenza, which mainly infects humans, and H1N2, a swine influenza virus. It was confirmed that some antibodies protect well against influenza with H2 and H5.

To check whether these antibodies work properly in live mice, the research team selected five anchor antibodies and administered them to 10 mice infected with H1N1 influenza. Despite infecting a life-lethal dose of the virus, all mice administered the anchor antibody effectively defended the virus.

Professor Andrew Ward of the Scripps Research Institute who led the study said, “The newly discovered anchor antibody will be one of the strong targets of influenza. did.

In academia, many studies are being conducted on antibodies that bind to the ‘stem’ region between the head and feet of HA. Last year, Florian Kramer, a professor at Mount Sinai University in the United States, announced the results of a phase 1 clinical trial in which a universal influenza vaccine was administered to humans in Nature Medicine. The vaccine developed by Kramer induces antibodies that attach to the stem of HA. When the researchers vaccinated 51 participants, they developed more antibodies than those who did not get the vaccine.

It was reported that only one side effect occurred.

Correspondent Choi Ji-won jwchoi@hankyung.com

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