Flu Prevention Update

Influenza vaccine VAX 102 in development shows promise

(RxWiki News) The 2009 influenza pandemic exposed some weakness in our healthcare system including the available inventory and the relevancy in treating flu outbreaks.

A new universal influenza vaccine,  VAX102, developed at University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) targets a protein common to all strains of influenza A and has produced an immune response in humans while remaining safe.

If effective, this vaccine could bypass the need for a new flu vaccine annually to stay ahead of the flu morphing into to different strains to remain unresponsive to vaccines.

"New flu vaccine could meet prevention needs."

Lead author Christine B. Turley, MD, Vice Chair for Clinical Services, Department of Pediatrics and a member of UTMB's Sealy Center for Vaccine Development said that the 2009 influenza pandemic created a great public and global health need for a quick, direct  vaccine production. If the current proposed vaccine is deemed effective, it will meet the global flu prevention need.

Turley said the benefits of VAX102 holds promise for a better vaccine for the elderly, because immune responses worsen with age. 

Elderly people aren't able to tolerate yearly increases in doses required by vaccines now. VAX102 could possibly provide long-term protection from influenza or possibly be used as a booster which maximizes immune memory.

The vaccine candidate, VAX102, targets a protein known as M2e, found on the surface of the influenza A virus, which has remained essentially unchanged over the last century. Researchers targeted this rarely changing protein because using a stable receptor like M2e will last through several seasons of flu varieties and avoid shortages in flu vaccines which happened during the recent flu pandemic of 2009.

Study participants included healthy adults ages 18-49  who received either two doses of the vaccine or two doses of a placebo. The two studies established the dose range for further study. Different doses were assigned to assess optimal dose levels.

Participants receiving the highest doses had more systemic reactions, with doses of 1 microgram or less deemed safe. All vaccinated subjects showed some level of antibody response.  More than four-fold increases were noted in all groups by 14 days after receiving a second dose of vaccine.

An important next step will be studies to determine the degree to which the vaccine may be effective against influenza infection. Future studies would also investigate the durability of the antibody response and more closely assess cytokine responses – proteins released as part of the immune response – in an effort to better understand, predict and potentially prevent the adverse reactions noted at highest doses.

Review Date: 
June 8, 2011