29 Jun Flu Vaccine Less Effective This Year Because Flu Virus Acquired A Mutation
Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Previous studies documented that the the 2014-2015 H3N2 flu vaccine strain was antigenically distinct compared to most recent H3N2 flu strains. Recent H3N2 strains possess several mutation and it was previously unknown which of these mutations contributed to the 2014-2015 vaccine mismatch. We used a reverse-genetic engineering approach to identify specific viral mutations that contributed to the 2014-2015 vaccine mismatch.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Response: Annual flu vaccines are necessary because flu viruses are constantly changing. There was a vaccine-mismatch this past year because flu viruses acquired a mutation that changed how the virus is recognized by the immune system. Most years, vaccine strains are well matched to most circulating strains, and seasonal flu vaccines are usually more effective. The best way to prevent flu infection is by getting a flu vaccine.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: We are now trying to determine what type of immune responses are elicited by the new 2015-2016 H3N2 flu vaccine strain. We hope to use this information to predict how flu viruses might mutate in the future.
Scott E. Hensley et al. Identification of Hemagglutinin Residues Responsible for H3N2 Antigenic Drift during the 2014–2015 Influenza Season. Cell Reports, June 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2015.06.005
Scott E. Hensley, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Wistar Institute, & Philadelphia, PA 1910 (2015). Flu Vaccine Less Effective This Year Because Flu Virus Acquired A Mutation