Dutch scientists have discovered a broad spectrum antibody that could enable universal flu vaccination in a few years. The effectiveness was tested on the basis of animal experiments: The broad spectrum antibody even protects against swine flu – but so far only mice.
At a research institute in Leiden, the Netherlands, Robert Friesen and his team looked for immune molecules that could be used as a flu vaccine. In doing so, they made a far-reaching discovery: They found three different antibodies that attach to the surface of the flu virus, which hardly changes despite constant mutations. This prevents the pathogen from multiplying. One of these antibodies has even been shown to be effective against different flu strains in animal experiments. The flu is caused by so-called influenza viruses, which are divided into type A and type B. Most influenza waves are caused by influenza A viruses, including the dangerous swine flu. Influenza B viruses are less common. A successful flu vaccination has so far mainly been possible against strains of type A, which is why more intensive research has been carried out on antibodies to neutralize B strains. With the discovery of the broad spectrum antibody, which is supposed to fight both types of viruses, an important step towards a universal flu vaccine has now been achieved, reports the “Ärzteblatt”. In animal experiments, mice were infected with different flu strains of both types. With the previously injected antibodies, they even withstood the otherwise fatal flu infections and strains of the H1N1 virus. However, a universal flu vaccination is still a long way off: There are no clinical studies on the effectiveness of broad-spectrum antibodies in humans. In addition, the production of such antibodies is quite expensive. By the time a vaccine can be developed, however, it would already be able to be used as an influenza drug.