Developing influenza vaccines for the future

Developing influenza vaccines for the future
To develop new influenza vaccines, a better understanding of the immune system is necessary

Annual Influenza vaccines are successful in many ways, however, their success rate falls short of many other vaccines, which is partly because flu strains mutate quickly, and it takes time to develop vaccines.

Influenza vaccines are just one of many which are proving difficult to develop, with scientists having to deal with more complex diseases and conditions such as malaria, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Certain pandemics, like the Zika and Ebola outbreaks, can also spread faster than developments are made.

Vaccines work by making us produces antibodies to fight disease without actually infecting us with disease.

If the vaccinated person then comes into contact with the disease itself, their immune system will recognise it and immediately produce the antibodies they need to fight it.

Developing new types of vaccines

The first step is to make the organism that produces the disease, which is known as a pathogen. The pathogen is a virus or bacterium that can be mass-produced in the laboratory by infecting cells grown in tissue culture.

More productive and quicker ways of manufacturing new vaccines are already growing in popularity. This includes using more efficient methods of vaccine propagation.

Future vaccines are also likely to be delivered in a variety of ways. According to Healthcare Global, nasal sprays are already being used as a pain-free way to deliver the flu vaccine to children and in the future we may see other pain-free vaccines.

The immune system and preparing for pandemics

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), developing new influenza vaccines is crucial for preparing for pandemics. In the recent 6th Joint WHO/Europe–European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) Annual European Influenza Surveillance Meeting, Dr Nedret Emiroglu said: “Getting ready for the next influenza pandemic is our collective responsibility. Let’s ask ourselves three basic questions: are we prepared for a severe pandemic? Are our pandemic plans revised? Are Europe and the world ready to respond tomorrow?”

However, to develop new influenza vaccines, a better understanding of the immune system is necessary. Advances in certain areas can help scientists understand the immune system and develop innovative vaccines, and these includes advances in:

  • Genomics; and
  • Artificial intelligence.
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