According to new research by Georgia State University’s Institute for Biomedical Sciences researchers, the new universal flu vaccine protects against influenza B virus strains. This provides broad protection against various strains and enhanced immune protection.
Double-layered protein-nanoparticle vaccines are made from a portion of the influenza virus (the stalk of hemagglutinin). They induce broad immune responses and provide strong and sustained cross immunity against both strains. The journal publishes the findings. Biomaterials.
Influenza epidemics pose a grave threat to public safety. There have been several severe flu pandemics that coincided with type B influenza. One-fourth of all clinical infections are caused each year by influenza B viruses. Influenza B viruses can be the most prevalent circulating strains in influenza seasons. This was the case for the 2019-20 U.S. Flu season, when influenza B caused more that 50% of the infections.
Influenza B has two different lineages. These lines are genetically distinct and produce different immune responses. Seasonal flu vaccines can be made with either one or both of the influenza B virus lineages. However, they are limited by the possibility of circulating strains of influenza B viruses escaping the immune system or vaccination. These vaccines are often ineffective due to the rapid evolution of the variable influenza virus (the HAhead). The seasonal influenza vaccines should be constantly reformulated. It is imperative that a universal influenza vaccine be developed, which contains the virus’ conserved parts and offers broad cross-protection to all strains.
“In this study we generated structure-stabilized HA stalk antibodies from influenza B and fabricated two-layered protein nanoparticles for universal influenza B vaccine candidates,” stated Dr. Baozhong Wang (senior author and Distinguished University Professor at Georgia State University). “We discovered that layered protein nanoparticles with structure-stabilized constant antibodies have the potential to be a universal vaccine against influenza with increased immune protection and breadth.”
The nanoparticle vaccine has been tested in cells culture and in mice. The protein nanoparticles could be effectively absorbed to activate dendritic cell activation, which is crucial for inducing protective immune response against pathogens. The vaccine was safe, biocompatible, biodegradable, and highly immunogenic in animal models.
Wang stated, “Our next goal is to combine the influenza A particles from our previous study and the influenza B nanoparticles that we have fabricated here to create a multivalent universal flu vaccine against both influenza A AND B.”
Co-authors of the study include Yufeng Song (first author), Wandi Zhu, Ye Wang, Lei Deng, Yao Ma, Chunhong Dong, Gilbert X. Gonzalez, Joo Kim, Lai Wei, Sang-Moo Kang and Bao-Zhong Wang of the Center for Inflammation, Immunity & Infection in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State. Deng also has a connection to Hunan University, Changsha in China.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health funded the study.