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Scientists Move Closer To a Universal Flu Vaccine

Unknown Lamer posted about a year and a half ago | from the and-then-came-the-ultra-flu dept.

Medicine 205

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Vaccines for most diseases typically work for years or decades but with the flu, next fall it will be time to get another dose. Now Carl Zimmer writes that a flurry of recent studies on the virus has brought some hope for a change as flu experts foresee a time when seasonal flu shots are a thing of the past, replaced by long-lasting vaccines. 'That's the goal: two shots when you're young, and then boosters later in life' says Dr. Gary Nabel, predicting that scientists would reach that goal before long: 'in our lifetime, for sure, unless you're 90 years old.' Today's flu vaccines protect people from the virus by letting them make antibodies in advance but a traditional flu vaccine can protect against only flu viruses with a matching hemagglutinin protein. If a virus evolves a different shape, the antibodies cannot latch on, and it escapes destruction. Scientists have long wondered whether they could escape this evolutionary cycle with a universal flu vaccine that would to attack a part of the virus that changes little from year to year so now researchers are focusing on target antigens which are highly conserved between different influenza A virus subtypes. 'Universal vaccination with universal vaccines would put an end to the threat of global disaster that pandemic influenza can cause,' says Dr. Sara Gilbert."

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205 comments

When will this be available? (3, Funny)

StarQuake64 (1136291) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828809)

Because I'm currently sneezing my brains out...

Re:When will this be available? (1, Insightful)

hey_popey (1285712) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828841)

Is it really going to happen if the "boosters" do not have to be taken often enough to keep the money flowing into the pharma industry?

Re:When will this be available? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41828871)

Is it really going to happen if the "boosters" do not have to be taken often enough to keep the money flowing into the pharma industry?

Short answer? No. Greed always wins.

Long answer? Fuck no. Greed always wins.

Re:When will this be available? (2, Interesting)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828881)

Didn't stop the TB/MMR jabs.

Re:When will this be available? (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828979)

Ah; but MMR was all part of the Big Pharma/reptoid autism conspiracy, so they were willing to accept lower margins on that one...

Re:When will this be available? (2, Informative)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829039)

You mean that whole debacle caused by a faked research paper [nih.gov]? Doesn't sound like some BigPharma conspiracy to me.

Re:When will this be available? (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829369)

You missed the joke.

The GP was agreeing with you.

Re:When will this be available? (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829391)

Didn't seem that way; maybe it was too subtle for me right now (distracted by more important things at the time of posting).

Re:When will this be available? (4, Insightful)

swalve (1980968) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829189)

There are 7 billion people in the world, and thousands of new ones are being made every day. Every new person is a new customer. They would be plenty happy if they could capture just a percentage of that.

Re:When will this be available? (5, Interesting)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829311)

The Seasonal Flu vaccines of today are an enormous headache for the pharma industry. Profit margins are extremely tight, they have politicians crawling up their ass constantly, and every other year during a slow news day some report decides to do an "expose`" that drives people in hordes to get vaccinated, driving up demand (but not price) and then even more politicians crawl up their asses to ask them why they aren't "doing enough" Don't get me wrong, drug companies suck... but flu vaccines are definitely not part of their evil plan. They will welcome this as much as the rest of us.

Re:When will this be available? (2)

blueg3 (192743) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829339)

It hasn't stopped all the other vaccines.

Plus, it's great short-term strategy, and companies like short-term strategy, right? If you're the one that makes the universal flu vaccine, then people are going to buy from you and not your competitors. Never mind that you can charge a lot more (since it's much more useful) and that insurance is almost sure to pay for it.

Accelerated Evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41828811)

So could we kill off all the 'typical' flu viruses allowing the evolution of something more aggressive?

Re:Accelerated Evolution (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828931)

So could we kill off all the 'typical' flu viruses allowing the evolution of something more aggressive?

Probably not inconceivable; but there are a couple of points to consider: TFA mentions targeting structures that are 'highly conserved' between different virus subtypes. Typically(and I am not a molecular biologist, so feel free to cringe and/or correct me) the fact that a structure is 'highly conserved' between genetically distinct populations means that it is extremely important for some reason. Mutations happen(and very, very fast in influenza), so regions that aren't life-critical can diverge significantly over time. Life-critical regions, on the other hand, do experience mutations; but most of the mutants die. The degree of conservation across genetic lineages that diverged at a known period in the past can tell you a lot about how important that area is, even if you don't yet know exactly what it does.

Second, while this also doesn't preclude a really nasty bug, it is important to remember that diseases aren't little agents playing Pandemic 2 and trying for a high score. Killing your host can be a viable strategy, if you gain enough from doing so; but (in the very weak sense that mindless evolving virues can even have 'goals') the 'goal' isn't body count, it's survival and reproduction. Very high mortality is frequently counterproductive, because hosts die faster than the disease can spread to new ones. In broad strokes, high mortality tends to occur when a novel pathogen shows up for the first time; but ends up being selected against over time(see the classic attempt to use Myxoma virus against feral rabbits in Australia).

Re:Accelerated Evolution (3, Interesting)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829181)

It also means there's no selective push against it.

The is quite possibly a good reason we don't create immunities to that target site - possibly because there are beneficial internal fauna that use similar proteins (including, possibly, phages that kill threatening bacteria), or we ourselves have something that would also be targeted.

I strongly suspect such a vaccine will have NASTY side effects. The problem is, you cannot unvaccinate.

I don't believe that it is an accurate representation, but have you seen the BBC show Survivors? I doubt it will spread like it did in that show (because I doubt we'd use such an inoculation method, or be as careless), but I could see a similarly unpleasant result to those who get vaccinated.
 

Re:Accelerated Evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41829833)

That's now how this would work. If we "don't create immunities to a target site", then a different vaccine wouldn't change that.

Re:Accelerated Evolution (3, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829889)

I suspect that we'll just have to kill a lot of fuzzy little animals in order to find out if those binding sites are specific to pathogens or whether they show up elsewhere...

Incidentally, if you want a category of vaccines that seems like it is just begging for dramatic trouble, how about Immunocontraceptives [wikipedia.org]? Already used with success in a variety of nuisance mammals; but uneconomic for use in smaller, more numerous, or harder-to-catch pests(because it has to be injected to work). So, logically enough, work is ongoing [nih.gov] to produce virally delivered vaccines that will spread themselves through the target population!

Re:Accelerated Evolution (5, Interesting)

TrekkieGod (627867) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828941)

So could we kill off all the 'typical' flu viruses allowing the evolution of something more aggressive?

That's not how evolution works.

Under the assumption that it is possible for a flu virus to easily mutate these particular antigens which appear to highly conserved (which is not a given...no matter how many people you run over with a bus, humans are not going to evolve immunity to buses), then it does not necessarily follow that the new strain would be more aggressive. This new strain could, in fact, very well be a much milder version. If these antigens are highly conserved, it's probably a part of what makes influenza evolutionarily successful. An adaptation that allows it to replicate and spread optimally. If true, and we attack these vectors, we're essentially changing the game such that the virus is now forced to have an adaptation which would have been less successful in the wild, in an environment without the vaccine.

After all, think about it. We didn't create more aggressive strains of polio or chickenpox once we created vaccines against those viruses. Instead, we pretty much annihilated those diseases.

Re:Accelerated Evolution (3, Insightful)

Minwee (522556) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829717)

no matter how many people you run over with a bus, humans are not going to evolve immunity to buses

The ones who don't get run over by buses are more likely to be the ones who pay attention to what's around them or the ones who never leave the house. Both of those are good not-getting-run-over-by-a-bus survival strategies, and they can be passed down to the survivors' offspring.

That _is_ how evolution works.

Re:Accelerated Evolution (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41829853)

If you never leave the house, you're not particularly successful at reproducing. So yeah, that *is* how evolution works, and helps GP's argument. This kind of mutation actually *weakens* the targeted organism.

Re:Accelerated Evolution (2)

swalve (1980968) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829203)

No. At least not as far as recent history has proved. We've eliminated lots of disease, from mundane old cholera to smallpox. Even with the advent of global travel, we really haven't seen any new bugs come in to take their place.

Re:Accelerated Evolution (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829365)

So could we kill off all the 'typical' flu viruses allowing the evolution of something more aggressive?

You could make the same argument about ANY vaccine. It's a tradeoff between how many people you will save and the risk of creating something worse. But, so far at least, vaccines have paid off in a HUGE way. It's almost unheard of today for children to die of common diseases that used to routinely kill them in droves.

If anything, the real risk is that we will end up prolonging life so long that we'll end up with overpopulation and demographic problems (we're already seeing some of that now).

Re:Accelerated Evolution (1, Redundant)

Bengie (1121981) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829805)

The human body already self inoculates against the majority of pathogens. There is no more reason to think the Flu will become more deadly over any other virus that is attacking humans 24/7.

You first (3, Insightful)

jasper160 (2642717) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828815)

I will not be on bleeding edge of this. The recent track record of the drug and vaccine approval process has been pretty sorry, let some other guinea pigs live with it a few years first.

Re: Gladly (1)

kc8tbe (772879) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828919)

What "sorry" track record? Last I checked we've been doing quite well with vaccines. I managed to get into a trial for one of the more recent ones, Chickenpox, and am certainly glad I did. Why are you so worried?

Re: Gladly (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41829035)

The DOD's anthrax vaccine scandal comes to mind. Funny how the owner of Biport, a big Clinton donor, was able to get his plant reopened after the FDA closed it.

Vaccines !=drugs (0, Offtopic)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828975)

You are confusing completely different things. Vaccines have generally been extremely safe and effective, despite some arseholes trying to spread fud about them for commercial gain (you can easily find who I mean). Drugs...recent drugs have tended to be ineffective and a lot has been spent on dodgy trials and high pressure salesmanship.

Having said that I was laid out for two days solid by this year's flu vaccine and really would like to see a better one.

Re:You first (4, Funny)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829089)

Fine, I'll take it any time. Not only do I hate getting the flu, when the deadly avian flu desaster strikes some day, I'd finally like to put all the doomsday scenario survival skills I've practised in video games for years to a test. :-)

Re:You first (2)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829209)

You probably won't get the chance.

There's probably a VERY good reason these conserved regions are not attacked by antibodies, even though it would be evolutionarily beneficial to do so. About the only good reasons are

(1) the way antibodies work, it is impossible (if that were the case, this article wouldn't be here for a few more decades - until we have better gene therapy and could change what antibodies can do)
(2) targeting that site would lead to false positives on things that are more beneficial than the flu is harmful.

Re:You first (1)

queazocotal (915608) | about a year and a half ago | (#41830009)

3) antibodies once constructed would work fine, but the antibody forming process chooses the fast-changing parts of the surface coat for some reason.

In addition, assuming the vaccine works flawlessly, and you wipe out flu in humans, it will cross over again from the animal population.

So, we not only have to wipe out flu in humans, but (at least) domestic animals, where a large reservoir exists.
And then it's going to cross back into the domestic animals from wild infected animals.

If, as is likely, you get large numbers of fake partially active vaccine, a global campaign to wipe out flu would merely serve to put extreme selection pressure on the virus to pick mutants that do not conserve the stable regions.

We have so far wiped out two viruses.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rinderpest [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smallpox [wikipedia.org]

Flu would be vastly harder than either.

Explain (0)

circletimessquare (444983) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829165)

How can a vaccine hurt you?

Is that you Jenny McCarthy?

Re:Explain (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | about a year and a half ago | (#41830041)

It actually can, if the manufacturer screws up. That's why many EU countries stopped two flu vaccines manufactured by Novartis (some stopped all three). There is also the BCG screwup in 1930 with 72 infants dead. Some vaccines are somewhat dangerous (yellow fever, rotavirus, rabies). And I write that as someone who has got most of the shots you need in Europe (MMR, polio, diphteria, tetanus, hepatitis A+B, TBE, BCG, flu).

Extrapolation (3, Funny)

RandomFactor (22447) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828823)

So if a one season shot makes your shoulder sore for four or five days, this will....?

Re:Extrapolation (3, Informative)

DrgnDancer (137700) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828933)

Probably make your arm sore for four or five days? It's not like they're going to be any bigger, it's just changing the composition of the payload.

Re:Extrapolation (1)

cjmnews (672731) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829963)

Last few time I got a seasonal flu shot I got sick for 2 weeks. So I stopped getting them.

So if I get the Universal shot, I'll get sick for...2 months?

Either way, I'll risk not getting the flu over a guarantee to be sick from the shot.

Ah, color me shocked... (1, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828843)

(From TFA, emphasis mine)

"Several of these have now been taken into clinical development, and this review discusses the progress that has been made, as well as considering the requirements for licensing these new vaccines and how they might be used in the future."

It just wouldn't be a slashdot story if 'intellectual property' didn't pop up somewhere, now would it?

Re:Ah, color me shocked... (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829411)

It just wouldn't be a slashdot story if 'intellectual property' didn't pop up somewhere, now would it?

Do you really expect them to spend hundreds of millions of $ to develop them and then just give them away for free?

Re:Ah, color me shocked... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829715)

Depends on who 'they' are. If it's a private outfit putting up their money in the hopes of developing a marketable product, no, I'd expect to see it priced at whatever premium over the current annual strain-specific vaccines they think that they can get.

If it's research done by one or more of the assorted state-funded public health medical research institutes or university researchers working under similar grants, then it's already been paid for, and I'd hope to see it being farmed out for production with a more or less exclusive focus on making it cheap.

Re:Ah, color me shocked... (1)

Xest (935314) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829861)

No but on the same note big pharma makes massive profits and it's executives get paid disgustingly high wages.

So you'll have to excuse me if I think that IP protections sway just a little bit too far in their favour right now because saving lives is kind of a bit more important than executives getting to have a gold plated circle jerk about how much their stock options are worth on the back of the latest financial results.

good vaccine (-1)

shentino (1139071) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828845)

exercise and vitamins and good food.

Best antidote yet known.

Re:good vaccine (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41828861)

An antidote is something you take after you're sick. A vaccine is something you take prior to getting sick.

You exercise to cure your flu?

Re:good vaccine (1)

dkf (304284) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828951)

A vaccine is something you take prior to getting sick.

More specifically, a vaccine makes the disease a much less serious issue, as it enables the body's immune system to squish it very rapidly and with few ill effects. That is, it changes the nature of the disease as a process occurring in the body (and to our benefit); it's immune system hacking really.

Given that we're not the primary hosts for influenza, a general vaccine (if possible) will be highly beneficial. Well, provided it's restricted to people and not also used to try to partially stamp it out in the natural reservoir; that would be bad because it would put strong selection pressure on the virus to evolve into something that the vaccine wouldn't help with.

Re:good vaccine (4, Insightful)

DrgnDancer (137700) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828973)

Yeah: Polio, Smallpox, Scarlet Fever, Malaria, Plague, Anthrax; all of those have historically been defeated by "exercise and vitamins and good food". That's why hardly anyone dies from them anymore. No, wait, sorry, my bad. It's because of vaccines, antibiotics, and sanitation. I always get those mixed up too.

Re:good vaccine (2)

jabuzz (182671) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829539)

I must be missing something where malaria has been defeated. Perhaps you might like to inform the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation they are wasting their money.

However in general you are right.

Re:good vaccine (1, Offtopic)

bertok (226922) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828977)

exercise and vitamins and good food.

Oh good, advice from a Slashdot armchair physician.

Unfortunately, what you don't know can quite literally kill you: the influenza virus can do more damage to young healthy people than the infirm, and some strains infect over 30% of the population, irrespective vitamin pills or yoga classes.

Read up on the 1918 flu pandemic [wikipedia.org] and then cytokine storms [wikipedia.org] to gain a glimmer of understanding into why research into a flu vaccine is more important than almost any public safety measure you can think of. Short of nuclear war, there's not a lot of things that are likely to wipe out a significant fraction of the human race, but the flu is one of them. We're practically overdue for a strain deadly enough to kill more people in a year than WWI and WWII combined.

I'd like to see you try to keep your attitude towards healthy living as the best defense against a viral plague when the government starts hauling away the bodies of your neighbors by the truckload.

I got the '76 flu virus (3, Informative)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828997)

At the time I was playing field games all year, could easily run five miles, and was getting a very good diet. I was in bed for 10 days with the 76 flu. I later learned that with many viruses the exact opposite of what you claim is the truth - plenty of exercise results in muscle cell damage which makes it easier for the virus to enter them, so athletic people can suffer worse than sedentary people. Poliomyelitis is another one that can do this.

Re:I got the '76 flu virus (4, Informative)

swalve (1980968) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829255)

There is also the problem where certain flus kill people with good immune systems faster than those with weaker ones. Cytokine Storm [wikipedia.org].

Re:I got the '76 flu virus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41829651)

Moderate exercise is the key. If you do too much exercise you hurt yourself in the long run. I managed to avoid the swine and avian flu just fine despite all my co-workers getting incapacitated.

Re:good vaccine (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41829021)

exercise and vitamins and good food.

Best antidote yet known.

You may be right, but I'm not so certain anymore that my overall health is a priority of either my local hospital or my government. After all, people being sick creates their revenue streams. Do you honestly believe a human body as the medium involved is going to completely remove corporate greed and bring those involved above and beyond moral reproach? Not likely. Sure as hell hasn't worked that way in damn near any other industry. Look at big tobacco. They kill over 1,200 people every single day with the one product they make, and smile all the way to the shareholders meetings.

Re:good vaccine (2)

Jason Levine (196982) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829193)

Exercise, vitamins and good food are essential for day-to-day health. If you have enough of those in your life, your chance of keeling over due to a heart attack will drop. However, this doesn't protect you against a viral attack. That's something that this stuff won't do a single thing against. Maybe your healthy body will weather the viral infection slightly better than someone who only sits on the couch eating junk food, but not by much. In fact, someone who sits on the couch eating junk food, but who got the flu vaccine, will tend to be better off when faced with the flu than a healthy eater/exerciser who doesn't get the vaccine.

Re:good vaccine (1)

houghi (78078) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829283)

Silly boy. You can not patent exercise, vitamins and good food.

Re:good vaccine (1)

RandomFactor (22447) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829929)

Invention describes an innovative method of improving general physical health through combination of repetitive physical exertion, nutritional supplementation, and dietary selection.

Re:good vaccine (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#41830021)

Vitamins don't sdo anything for you unless you are deficient. Even then, a lot of pills don't work well.

End the threat? (-1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828847)

Nature finds a way. It sounds too good to be true, and it sounds like it's a researcher casting around for a grant.

Re:End the threat? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41828893)

Yep, look at Polio. Years later and it's killing us all once again.

And smallpox... (0)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829017)

Vaccination has been around since the 19th century and smallpox has returned as a major killer...oh not it hasn't. In fact there were discussions some years ago about whether it was right to keep ANY smallpox virus at all in the world for research. (In case the North Koreans or the North Americans were developing a resistant strain).

Re:End the threat? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41829057)

Yep, look at Polio. Years later and it's killing us all once again.

You do understand that this is because of the recent anti-vaccine movement, where parents are not vaccinating their children, because of irrational fears that it may cause autism, right?

Re:End the threat? (0)

dontfearthereaper (2657807) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828921)

Nature indeed will find a way.... All you will wind up with is a decade or so with no flu... then suddenly a superbug FAR more lethal and dangerous than the one you eradicated.

Re:End the threat? (0)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829003)

Not necessarily: We've completely killed smallpox.

Re:End the threat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41829375)

No we haven't:

http://www.whale.to/vaccines/obomsawin2.html

Re:End the threat? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#41830063)

Yes we have. That was a horrible article which can only be summed up as 'A lie'.

How many ways can you (-1)

3seas (184403) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828873)

sterilize people?

A co-worker suffered paralysis on his left side and was in the hospital for near over a month. Since then he has gone to a nutritionist for vitamin boosters and other therapy, including having all his metal fillings replaced with ceramic and though he has recovered well enough to regain movement in his left side, he will suffer in pain for the rest of his life

All this from a flu shot.

Research been showing more problems than prevention from vaccines? http://curezone.com/art/read.asp?ID=12&db=12&C0=735 [curezone.com]

Re:How many ways can you (5, Insightful)

Kell Bengal (711123) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829033)

Research been showing more problems than prevention from vaccines

I'm going to use my annecdotal dataset of one. Let's see, people I know who've had vaccines. Hmm... all of them. Number of those people who have had negative side-effects.... none whatsoever. So, if there are more problems than prevention from vaccines, I'm not seeing it in my little slice of the world.

In fact, given that vaccination rates run at something from 70-90% in industrialised countries and we aren't seeing 70-90% of people suffering more than they might expect from polio, measles, influenza, etc. I'd say that claiming that vaccines do more harm than good is complete bullshit.

Anecdote (5, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829061)

As someone who was nearly killed by measles and who could have died of the 76 flu had I note been treated, I suggest that you are writing nonsense. Mind you, the reference to replacing metal fillings with ceramic rather gives away where you're coming from.

Yes a tiny number of people have died of vaccines. Have you any idea of how many would have died without them?

Re:How many ways can you (4, Informative)

ChemGeek4501 (1044544) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829171)

Correlation does not imply causation. Your co-worker's paralysis could could have been caused by a number of factors and probably was not thoroughly explored. The curezone article that was shown is a mis-mash of peer reviewed and non-peer reviewed "articles" from main-stream, generally chemophobic press and even some of the books.

Even the recent thermisol flap was debunked by three research agencies in the US: CDC, FDA with the results being reviewed by three independent agencies (NAS-Institute of Medicine, Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Still after this tremendous amount of research, we still have TV stars warning us about the evil of vaccines and those containing thermisol in particular. As people hear the tripe without investigating, the begin to believe then they stop immunizing their children, and as such we have seen a resurgance of childhood diseases such as whooping cough.

Generally speaking, flu vaccines won't "prevent' the flu as much as it helps reduce duration and severity of the sympotons, as the virus mutates pretty rapidly. One has to look at the risk/benefit of vaccination, not only for themselves but for society as a whole.

Could cause the flu to become more vicious. (1, Informative)

concealment (2447304) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828885)

Consider the feedback loop. In response to our actions, the flu itself will change.

We're already seeing how microbes are developing resistance [asiantribune.com] to antibiotics [wired.com], and how germs acquired during healthcare [medscape.com] are more virulent than those out there in the wild.

Do we want to incentivize the flu to mutate into something more vicious and fast-acting?

Sometimes, mother nature represents a balance between extremes. Somewhere between no-flu and a flu that resembles airborne superfast Ebola is the current balance.

I am not saying we should not explore this technology, but with our current record, we should move cautiously.

Re:Could cause the flu to become more vicious. (2)

camperdave (969942) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828957)

So this vaccine could lead to the zombie apocalypse, but with people shuffling around calling out for Nyquil instead of brains?

Re:Could cause the flu to become more vicious. (0)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829067)

Immunization is not sterilization. When Smallpox was eradicated, no new "super-smallpox" moved in to take its place. It went the way of the awk, the dodo, the T-Rex and the trilobite.

The flu is more of a challenge, because it's so mutable and because it has a habit of hiding out in non-human species in 3d World countries. However, unlike sterilization, where you nuke everything and whatever's left takes over, if you immunize, the body exterminates the primary strain before it can expand, leaving more resources to go after the secondary strains. Which is sort of the reverse.

Re:Could cause the flu to become more vicious. (0)

quenda (644621) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829073)

No, vaccines and antibiotics work very differently. But even with abuse of antibiotics, the worst they do is reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics. The "superbugs" are no worse than regular bugs were before antibiotics were discovered. That is, the days when the simplest wound or surgery was often fatal.
It would be a shame if we cure the common cold at the same time that tuberculosis and infected paper cuts start to kill en-masse again.

Re:Could cause the flu to become more vicious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41829265)

I agree 100% with you. We're trying to escape an evolutionary cycle and could wind up initiating a new cycle. Things such as this type of vaccine put enormous evolutionary pressure on the virus to mutate. If an individual typically gets about 30,000,000 virus particles hanging around a sick person, multiply that times a population in a small town and suddenly a 1 in a billion mutation is a certainty. On the other hand, diseases can be eradicated.

Re:Could cause the flu to become more vicious. (1, Insightful)

dinfinity (2300094) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829341)

The gravity of the effects of viruses is not something that will increase due to evolutionary pressure.

In fact, most viruses have very little use for their host dying or functioning particularly badly. After all, a dead host is pretty bad at spreading the viral RNA or at least worse than one walking around. That is why Ebola is such a fail of a virus and viruses with mild effects are such a success (when looking at population count and age).
Some would point to HIV as having really bad effects on the host and being really successful, but the reality is that it's a very young virus and that if no countermeasures would be developed against it, it would have very little future (because pretty much all humans would eventually be dead). Its probable ancestor SIV is much more successful exactly because it generally has very little adverse effect its hosts.

Bacteria are much more resilient and generally have fewer issues in spreading themselves or even reproducing out of host bodies. Most viruses deteriorate pretty quickly outside of a host body (and out of water, see: Virus survival in the environment ... [unc.edu]), whereas bacteria can linger on non-organic materials for long times. They have fewer problems with a malfunctioning or dead host, although having their host work for them and collecting all the food is still a pretty sensible strategy.

Re:Could cause the flu to become more vicious. (1)

Xest (935314) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829899)

It depends how effectively you distribute the vaccine, if you do it in bits and pieces over a spread of many years then yes there is a chance for the virus to mutate into something worse.

But if you do a nationwide vaccination programme in a year or two, one country at a time, then it has less chance to mutate before it's whiped out.

Common Cold next? (2, Interesting)

crow (16139) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828899)

My understanding is that the Common Cold is based on six virus families, so a similar approach for each family could create a set of vaccines to eliminate colds.

evolution (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41828913)

Flu virus changes are consequences of our immunity latching onto the parts which change. The parts that doesn't change doesn't change because they don't undergo any evolutionary pressure - once you are through with illness, you have antibodies which successfully prevent its return, for the season, all that without aiming at those "unchanging" parts of virus. Once we start targeting them, they too will start changing.

Overall, it will be an interesting experiment, but I doubt it will be as useful remedy as hoped.

Re:evolution (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41829097)

The parts that doesn't change doesn't change because they don't undergo any evolutionary pressure - once you are through with illness, you have antibodies which successfully prevent its return, for the season, all that without aiming at those "unchanging" parts of virus. Once we start targeting them, they too will start changing.

Why is it that people have such trouble understanding evolution?

Evolutionary pressure does not increase mutation rate. It prevents organisms which are unfit against said pressure from reproducing and spreading. So, if mutations in those parts that are most unchanged have happened, those viruses will reproduce more than the ones targeted by the vaccine. However, mutation rates of those parts do not increase. In addition, since those hypothetical viruses do not compose the majority of the viruses now, we can assume they are less fit in an environment without the vaccine, and that our bodies make short work of them already.

Already ahead of them (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41828943)

I never catch the flu because I go out of my way to avoid contact with all humans. No need for a fancy vaccine and best of all, free of charge.

Re:Already ahead of them (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829669)

If the health care professionals I have inquired of are at all credible, then the flu I get every time I go to get immunized is caused by contact with the vectors standing in line. (My credulity is rather strained in this regard.) Hand washing is not always enough. Perhaps a mask next time?

In related news.. (1, Offtopic)

Drathos (1092) | about a year and a half ago | (#41828985)

This just in! Nature moves closer to a flu immune to the "universal" vaccine.

Re:In related news.. (2)

Jason Levine (196982) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829219)

However, as others have pointed out, such an "immune flu" might be forced to be much milder by giving up structures which are so necessary that they exist in all flu strains. It's possible that, fifty years down the line, kids (immunized with the universal flu vaccine) might think of "getting the flu" the same way we think of "getting a 24 hour bug" today. You don't feel well for a day and then feel much better (as opposed to today's sick in bed and can't move for a week).

Not possible and everyone knows that (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41828987)

IT is not possible to have a single flu shot. As the influenza virus mutes all the time, each year a group of self-declared experts mix a batch of crap to fight what they "predict" will be the strongest strains. Since the strains change all the time there is never going to be ONE vaccine as the vaccine has to change.

If you think that they are going to create a super vaccine to replace all others from now to the end of time you probably "wanted to make history and voted for the fool".

Universal Virus Cure (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41829123)

A universal cure for all virii, both known and unknown could be acheived
by changing the genetic code used by human (host) cells. This would
cause an invading virus to be mis-replicated and therefore harmless to
the remaining, uninvaded cells.
  There is a species of bacteria which partially implements this tactic for
the purpose of surviving bacteriophages (a bacteria-attacking virus).
  Such a change would ideally done temporarily just in case there are
side effects.

Re:Universal Virus Cure (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829477)

Doubtful it is possible, otherwise we likely would have evolved with it. Instead, we got the Immune System, which is highly effective at adapting and eliminating many forms of diseases... but isn't 100% effective.

removing the right to fight for your life (-1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829155)

there's a fundamental problem with all these vaccines, which is summed up flippantly as "what doesn't kill ya makes ya stronger". many people - many of them doctors - recognise that letting their kids happily play in the dirt encourages their immune systems to go into overdrive - not just because of the regular influx of dirt but also because of the happiness.

by vaccinating children against various disease - by giving their immune systems an "easy ride" - their immune systems simply do not develop to the same extent that a child would if they had the actual disease and had to fight for their life.

the very first time we fight for our lives - for our right to live - is when we are born. we *literally* fight for breath, when being sqeezed out of our mums. vaccinations ESPECIALLY ones that are enforced on us by governments are removing our right to fight for our lives, and they're bringing up generation after generation of adults that have immune systems that simply haven't been properly developed at an early age.

the long-term effects on entire populations leaves me deeply concerned.

no doubt there will be plenty of people reading this who will be outraged. they will try to tell me "how could you possibly sit there and write or believe such absolute shit? if it was YOUR child, you would not be so cocky" and the answer is "yes i would. i would sit by my daughter's bed-side, nursing her patiently back to health, loving her and being happy with and for her. because happiness and *not* giving in to the 'shit' is exactly what life is all about."

and no, we have *NOT* vaccinated our daughter. the reports on the detrimental effects and case studies on the long-term health of children are out there; they're just not widely published because a) governments don't want to spread the very panic that they created and spread in the first place b) there's too much money to be made from mass-produced vaccines.

in the 1960s there was a "foot & mouth" outbreak in the UK. nobody slaughtered any cows. they just went "oops, i've got a sore on my lip, oh dear i'd better keep away from people and not kiss them", and the herds were isolated and that was the end of it.

fast-forward 40 years and we have mass panic *and* we have mass-vaccinations. with the masses having their immune systems weakened *because* of the mass-vaccinations, is it any surprise that they go into hysterics, spread the news all over the internet in real-time and accelerate and exacerbate the panic?

so this isn't actually about the actual vaccinations at all. it's about people coping with and adjusting to global instant communications.

Re:removing the right to fight for your life (4, Insightful)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829415)

Make sure you actually do the "keep away from people" bit. Then hopefully it'll just be you and your family dieing from preventable diseases and not the rest of us.

Re:removing the right to fight for your life (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41829645)

by vaccinating children against various disease - by giving their immune systems an "easy ride" - their immune systems simply do not develop to the same extent that a child would if they had the actual disease and had to fight for their life.

That's a crock of shit, sir. Every time you vaccinate, you challenge the immune system, and you bring it to a state of readiness for the next attack. It's only people whose immune systems are naive to the invader that actually come down with the disease. That's the whole fucking point of vaccination!

and no, we have *NOT* vaccinated our daughter. the reports on the detrimental effects and case studies on the long-term health of children are out there; they're just not widely published because a) governments don't want to spread the very panic that they created and spread in the first place b) there's too much money to be made from mass-produced vaccines.

I don't care if your daughter dies. I don't care if her 90-year-old grandparents die. I do care if I come down with a case of whooping cough from a carrier like her.

Fortunately, I won't have to worry about that for another 10 years, because a lot of people have wrongly thought that pertussis was one of those diseases of the 60s/70s that had been wiped out by vaccination, and forgot that there was a booster shot available. Some antivax fucktard cow orker of mine infected three of us and knocked my team's productivity down for a month.

Re:removing the right to fight for your life (5, Insightful)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829819)

vaccinating children against various disease - by giving their immune systems an "easy ride" - their immune systems simply do not develop

That makes no sense. A vaccination only makes someone's immune system work harder, earlier. It is just like "playing in the dirt", only with particularly useful dirt.

Useful advice they won't take... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41829227)

"..If a virus evolves a different shape, the antibodies cannot latch on, and it escapes destruction. Scientists have long wondered whether they could escape this evolutionary cycle with a universal flu vaccine that would to attack a part of the virus that changes little from year to year.."

The medics should talk to Dr Alan Solomon, who used to run the successful computer Anti-Virus company "Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit".

He was the one who, when polymorphic viruses came out in the early 1990s, developed the approach for detecting them that all AV companies use today. IIRC, he got a Queen's Award for Technology for this invention.

At the time, many AV companies used to recognise viruses by matching simple bit strings which occurred in the virus code - much the same as detecting the proteins on the surface of a biological virus. Virus writers produced code such as the 'Mutation Engine', which put random 'NOPs' in the code and altered the call sequences, so that every instance of a virus in a computer was a different bit string. Then they started doing whole virus encryption with different keys on each infection. At a stroke, the detection process was subverted.

Alan realised that the virus was 'the same' at some level - not at the bit level, but in terms of its code behaviour. The actual bits would be different for each virus, but a copy of, say, Tequila, would still load two registers, compare and jump at a similar point (that's simplistic, but you get the idea...). So he developed a process for examining a virus, not at the bit level, but in terms of code behaviour. And when he finally sold his company he became a rich man.

I'm sure the same techniques will function in biological viruses - both from the virus attack point of view and the medical defenders. We understand the technique in computers - I hope the medics are sufficiently widely read to be able to apply the work Alan did 25 years ago in a different discipline.....

     

No such thing as 'vaccination'... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41829233)

... and LOL at " Today's flu vaccines protect people from the virus by letting them make antibodies in advance".

So if I don't have the 'vaccines' (plural, remember), then my body can't make antibodies when the actual flu virus is in my body? Why is that then?

http://www.whale.to/v/hadwen1.html

Still waiting for a rebuttal to any of Dr Hadwen's talks. Come on, you've had over a century to do it, why has nobody done it yet?

(Cue moronic Slashdotters spouting 'the party line' about 'vaccination' and getting all defensive. What a joke.)

Re:No such thing as 'vaccination'... (2)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829615)

Everything Dr. Hadwen said has been thouroughly debunked, many times over. If you've deluded yourself enough to think otherwise I know you won't read these, but I'll leave the links here just in case:
https://draust.wordpress.com/2008/06/04/who-needs-facts-these-vaccine-conspiracy-pieces-write-themselves%E2%80%A6/ [wordpress.com]
http://skepticalsurfer.blogspot.com/2007/09/terminology-aggressive-vs-conservative.html [blogspot.com]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Vaccine_controversies/Archive_2 [wikipedia.org]
http://reasonablehank.com/2012/02/06/judy-judy-judy-are-you-attempting-to-censor-others-right-to-free-speech/ [reasonablehank.com]

Universalvaccine (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829317)

So not only is it effective against the asian and bird flu's, it also works against Martian, Klingon and Vulcan types.

(And how about The Andromeda Strain ?)

If they can do this for Influenza... (1)

X!0mbarg (470366) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829419)

How come they haven't taken aim at the Common Cold?

Or is it that the pharmaceutical companies are making all too much profit from the less-than-threatening cold virus?

Maybe I'm just too jaded.

Re:If they can do this for Influenza... (3, Interesting)

Glubbdrubb (1450653) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829573)

Because the common cold is actually over 100 different strains from at least 3 different virus families. After a cold, you develop protective immunity to that strain, but there are so many other strains circulating that its just a matter time before you get infected by a "new" (to you) strain. There is development on vaccines which will carry the conserved regions in the cold viruses, but it's a MUCH bigger task.

Unintended consequences? (1)

locster (1140121) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829613)

Should we be concerned about eliminating pathogens that we have co-evolved with and that help build our immune systems (for those of us that aren't killed by them)? Is there an unintended consequence building up here?

Or in other words - what could possibly go wrong?

Zombie apocalypse here we come... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41829631)

We have already beaten Chicken Pox or have we.... In recent years people and even children are coming down with Shingles, a fait rarely heard of in early years.

Somewhere..... (2)

meglon (1001833) | about a year and a half ago | (#41829721)

.... a group of rabid, radical evangelicals are planning a boycott because if their children have a greater chance to live, they have a greater chance to have SEX!!!!!

Queue (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41829779)

All the Conspirator theories and Dick Cheney/Halliburton/Asbestos Conspiracies....

Halloween 2012 (1)

clam666 (1178429) | about a year and a half ago | (#41830023)

...and queue the opening credit sequence, the soundtrack, and the scenes of the population being mass innoculated before the "rage virus" mutation overtakes New York.

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