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Flu fighters

作者:郇妨敦    发布时间:2019-03-07 10:01:12    

By Robert Adler A LITTLE protein that pops up on flu viruses the world over could be the key to creating a universal flu vaccine that can tackle new strains as they emerge. Several flu vaccines are already available. They contain some of the proteins found in abundance on the surfaces of the viruses, thus priming our immune systems to attack the real thing. But the vaccines become useless within a year or two as new flu strains evolve, sporting mutated proteins that the immune system does not recognise. Experts fear a repeat of the flu pandemic of 1918 to 1920, in which 25 million people died. So scientists are trying to home in on a protein that doesn’t change rapidly as the virus evolves. Now Walter Fiers and his colleagues at the University of Ghent in Belgium say they have found one—a tiny protein called M2. They have showed that of the dozen or so flu strains that have been sequenced, almost all have the same M2 protein dotting their surfaces. Fiers’s team has also found a way to make M2 provoke a strong immune response. To present large numbers of M2 molecules to the immune systems of mice, they engineered Escherichia coli bacteria to make a protein complex that has many copies of the M2 protein sticking out of it. After purifying this vaccine, they gave mice three doses, either by injection or as nose drops. All immunised animals survived doses of flu virus that killed half of their untreated littermates (Nature Medicine, vol 5, p 1157). “We got protective, long-term immunity,” says Fiers. Edwin Kilbourne, a virologist at New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York state, cautions that the team have not proved that the M2 vaccine works against many strains of flu. “The work is promising, but I think they’re making a big jump,

 

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