Fig. 1 Flu Under The Microscope
Scientists have used a mutant influenza A virus to develop a vaccine that gave the immune systems of mice and ferrets a significant boost, according to the study published in the journal Science on Thursday. The newly designed vaccine has been tested only in those lab animals, and more research is needed to determine whether it could be used safely and effectively in humans.
Yet the researchers hope that, once more studies are conducted, this vaccine could "reduce the spreading of influenza viruses in the world," said Ren Sun, a professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles, and the study's senior author.
"We expect it to be effective in humans, but there are possibilities for potentially unexpected outcomes," Sun said, adding that, if proven to be effective, the potential vaccine could possibly be administered as a nasal spray.
"It will be easier for more people to take flu vaccine," he said, if used as a nasal spray at home rather than an injection by a health care professional, for instance. Though, he added, it could take "several years" before such a potential vaccine would even begin the FDA approval process.
The new study sheds light on one innovative and emerging approach to building a robust flu vaccine, at a time when the US is experiencing widespread and intense flu activity, according to the CDC.