A new flu vaccine currently being tested in animals could provide long-lasting protection against various strains of influenza.
David Putnam, PhD, Associate Professor in the Nancy E. and Peter C. Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University, helped create the vaccine. He told Drug Topics that researchers are hopeful the vaccine could be effective in humans for up to 5 to 10 years.
"The primary benefits are a significant reduction in costs associated with vaccination of the population under normal circulating influenza strains," Putnam said. "Vaccination every 5 years rather than every year would significantly reduce the economic burden."
It would also provide broad coverage for people who had received the vaccine for abnormal circulating influenza strains as well, he said, by providing at least some level of protection against the strains even when they were considered new.
The vaccine is designed to take a conserved protein found in the influenza virus, known as Matrix-2 (M2), and then package it on a nanoscale into a controlled-release capsule that would provide a quick-acting long-lasting vaccine that could be effective in multiple strains of influenza A, according to an article published in the Cornell Chronicle.
"First we aimed to use antigens in the formulation that are somewhat conserved among the different strains of influenza, thereby giving broader coverage than the traditional seasonal vaccine," Putnam said.
Putnam and Matt DeLisa, PhD, the William L. Lewis Professor of Engineering in the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Cornell University, also seek to create a vaccine that would be effective in a single dose.
"This is to give public health officials a way to vaccinate a population in the instance of a break through pandemic or epidemic influenza strain," Putnam said, adding that a single-dose formulation would make it much easier to vaccinate an entire population.
Currently, the vaccine has been tested in several animal studies. Researchers found that the vaccine was still protective in mice after 6 months, which is equivalent to about 25% of a mouse's life span. It has also been found to be effective in ferrets. "The importance of the ferret work is that ferrets become infected with the human form of influenza and mimic the effect in humans very well," Putnam said.
The researchers plan to conduct further safety studies and form industry partnerships in the years ahead as they work toward testing the vaccine in human clinical trials.
According to the CDC, it's estimated that since 2010 there have been between 9.2 million and 35.6 million cases of influenza annually, resulting in 12,000 to 56,000 deaths each year.