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Fine-Tuning the Flu Vaccine for Broader Protection

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An antibody that mimics features of the influenza virus's entry point into human cells could help researchers understand how to fine-tune the flu vaccine to protect against a broad range of virus strains. Such protection could potentially reduce the need to develop, produce, and distribute a new vaccine for each flu season.

A multi-institutional team led by Stephen C. Harrison, PhD, chief of the Division of Molecular Medicine at Children's Hospital Boston, report their work and its implications for improving influenza vaccination this week in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

With each passing season, the two primary components of the influenza virus's outer coat, neuraminidase and hemagglutinin (the annual flu vaccine's primary target), mutate, allowing the virus to dodge any anti-flu immunity an individual may have generated in previous years. This evasion strategy, called antigenic drift, is why a new flu vaccine is necessary every year, a process that can take upwards of seven months.

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