A team of researchers from the pharmaceutical company Janssen and US scientists has developed a novel DNA vaccine that makes it possible to protect older patients from influenza. Older people, in particular, belong to the risk group because they can only develop a few antibodies due to immunosenescence – which in turn can reduce the efficacy of the vaccine. The team has succeeded in designing an antibody that is effective against various strains. This is done with the help of llamas. Llamas are more commonly known as load animals and spitting mates. For the research team, however, the gregarious animals are more, because they can produce the 4-in-1 antibody against influenza. The animals have the advantage of producing small antibodies. The llamas were infected with different influenza viruses and developed broadly neutralizing antibodies. These were taken by the researchers and used to produce a synthetic antibody. For this purpose, a gene was constructed that expresses a protein from nanobodies derived from the four antibodies of the llamas. In the next step, the engineered gene was packaged into a benign virus – an adenovirus. The super-antibody was screened as a nasal spray on test mice. The animals were infected with 59 different influenza viruses – which can also cause an infection in humans. The rodents were also treated with viruses that are usually fatal, but as a result of the vaccination, almost all mice survived. The synthetic vaccine was able to successfully repel the tested virus strains. The experimental animals had formed antibodies for several months. This allows a nasal vaccine per influenza season, but without producing a new antibody every year, even if the flu viruses are genetically altered.


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