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Updated: September 29, 2010 02:23 IST

New broad-acting flu vaccine needed, says immunologist

Xinhua
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OPINION: ‘We need to make a cross-reactive antibody response,' says Prof. Doherty seen in this 2007 file picture at the Third Burnet lecture in Hyderabad.
- PHOTO: G. KRISHNASWAMY
OPINION: ‘We need to make a cross-reactive antibody response,' says Prof. Doherty seen in this 2007 file picture at the Third Burnet lecture in Hyderabad.

The global swine flu epidemic has shown how the world needs a new broad-acting vaccine with a “cross-reactive” antibody response that tackles viruses, an Australian immunologist has said on September 28.

Nobel Laureate Professor Peter C. Doherty, from the University of Melbourne, said the H1N1 virus showed how a newly emerged flu variant could now spread person-to-person globally, aided by international travel, in just months.

Prof. Doherty (who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 1996 along with Rolf M. Zinkernagel for their discoveries concerning “the specificity of the cell mediated immune defence”) said, “It takes at least six months to get a new vaccine out there, so unless it's something that is already in the pipeline you may not have vaccine ready ... in fact you almost certainly won't. If we could design something that was cross-reactive we could stockpile it, the trouble is you cannot predict what flu will do.” The key to creating a stockpile-able vaccine that would be effective against all versions of the flu, he said, was to find elements of the virus' make-up that were shared by all variants.

Doherty said several potential targets had been identified, although whether a broad-acting vaccine was a technical possibility would not be known for “at least a decade“.

“The only way we're ever going to knock that is if we can make a cross-reactive antibody response, because the thing is just so variable,” he said. — Xinhua

Keywords: swine flu

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