In general, the flu is an annoying but mild illness. That usually does not have seriousness to those who suffer it.
However, some of the most susceptible groups of the population, such as the elderly, children, pregnant women, immunosuppressed patients or people with chronic diseases, can suffer the most serious symptoms with infection of the same virus. Even, on specific occasions, it can generate complications; that, in the worst case, end with death.
Therefore, these most vulnerable patients should be vaccinated each year of the so-called seasonal flu, whose outbreaks are concentrated in the winter of countries with temperate climates and irregularly, throughout the year, in the tropics.
It is important to repeat the vaccine every year, since the strain of virus responsible for the outbreak changes in each season, so the composition of the drug also does so.
Unfortunately, these vaccines can do little against the most lethal strains of the virus, which causes the big flu pandemics. But, now, this could change thanks to the new vaccine developed by an international team of researchers, whose results have been published in Science.
A more dangerous flu vaccine
A flu pandemic occurs when a new flu virus spreads rapidly throughout the world. Adding the fact that most people do not have immunity to him.
The best known of these pandemics was the so-called Spanish flu, which in 1918 killed between 20 and 40 million people around the world. Since then, and every so often, a new outbreak has spread throughout the planet, although not always with the fatal consequences of then.
An influenza pandemic occurs when the disease spreads rapidly around the world
The last influenza pandemic took place in 2009, with which it was baptized as influenza A. In this case there were just over 18,000 deaths, most of them in America and Europe.
Since then, no other similar pandemic has occurred, although scientists are still investigating methods to stop its expansion should it occur. This is the case of the team led by Darrick Carter, of the Infectious Disease Research Institute, Seattle, in collaboration with scientists from Israel and Canada.
Together, they have developed a vaccine for a strain of Influenza – which is called pandemic influenza virus, with great advantages over other previous alternatives.
Powerful and easy to administer
After the development of a vaccine in the face of an influenza pandemic or any other disease, health centers can collapse due to the large number of patients who come in bulk to be vaccinated.
The vaccine can be administered by the patient, in his own home
Therefore, these researchers have devised a vaccine whose administration can be carried out by the patient, in their own home.
It is administered intradermally, but with a very small hollow microneedle, unable to enter the blood vessels or deep tissues. This means that it can be easily sent by mail and that the patient can administer it without having to acquire complicated knowledge about its handling.
On the other hand, it is the first vaccine of these characteristics that includes an adjuvant in its composition. Adjuvants are substances or procedures that are added to vaccines to make the immune response more effective.
In this case, glucopyranosyl lipids were used, whose efficacy with this type of purpose had already been studied previously.
Finally, instead of using an inactivated virus, as is usually done to generate the production of antibodies against the pathogen, in this case they used non-infectious particles endowed with the genes responsible for coding the structures of the virus recognized by the immune system.
Once the vaccine was obtained, they proceeded to test it in ferrets and humans. In the former, a single administration of the drug completely protected the animals from contraction of the disease. On the other hand, the first trials in humans, conducted with one hundred patients, did not generate significant adverse effects. In addition, the response of the immune system was much more effective than in the control group to which a vaccine was administered without adjuvant.
In the absence of new studies, these researchers believe that their work could be the prelude to a new generation of vaccines, prepared for distribution by mail and self-administration in case of pandemic.
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