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Working towards a universal influenza vaccine

M. Kanekiyo, C-J. Wei, H. M. Yassine, P. M. McTamney, J. C. Boyington, J. R. R. Whittle and others

INFLUENZA viruses are a burden on global health systems and vaccines must be rapidly produced to match circulating viruses. This study used the knowledge of the protein structure ferritin to design nanoparticles to produce antibodies against a wide range of influenza viruses.

Ferritin, an iron transporting protein, and haemagglutinin (HA), a major protein in influenza viruses, were genetically fused together to form nanoparticles that self-assembled into structures with eight trimeric spikes on their surface. These spikes mimicked those found in the coat of influenza viruses. The authors found that when the nanoparticles were injected into mice and ferrets, the HA inhibition antibody titres were 34 and 10 times higher, respectively, than those elicited by a current commercial vaccine.

Furthermore, the antibodies elicited by the 1999 strain of H1N1 used in the nanoparticle assembly neutralised virus strains from 1934 to 2007; the 2007 strain had not yet evolved in 1999.

The authors suggest that the nanoparticles work by producing antibodies that attach to the stem and the receptor-binding site on the …

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