Approximately 291,000 to nearly 646,000 deaths worldwide each year due to seasonal influenza

Approximately 291,000 to nearly 646,000 deaths worldwide each year due to seasonal influenza

Scientists review influenza vaccine research progress and opportunities

NewYork. 08 April 2019. In a new series of articles, experts in immunology, virology, epidemiology, and vaccine development detail efforts to improve seasonal influenza vaccines and ultimately develop a universal influenza vaccine. The 15 articles are part of a supplement in the April 15 issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases. Researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and scientists supported by NIAID, are among the contributing authors. Barney S. Graham, M.D., Ph.D., deputy director of NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC), and Michelle C. Crank, M.D., head of the Translational Sciences Core in the VRC’s Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory, edited the supplement.

In an
introductory article, NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. and Catharine I.
Paules, M.D., an infectious disease physician at Penn State Health Milton S.
Hershey Medical Center, underscore the public health need for improved
influenza vaccines, noting the approximately 291,000 to nearly 646,000
deaths worldwide each year due to seasonal influenza
. They also discuss the
possibility of another influenza pandemic, which occurs when a novel influenza
virus to which most people do not have immunity arises unpredictably. The 1918
influenza pandemic caused an estimated 50 million to 100 million deaths.

The current seasonal
influenza vaccine
reduces influenza-related hospitalizations and
deaths. However, people must get vaccinated annually due to constantly changing
influenza viruses, and in some years, the vaccine confers less-than-optimal
protection against infection. Drs. Fauci and Paules note that recent scientific
advances, combined with scientists’ efforts to coordinate and accelerate their
research activities, have provided unprecedented momentum toward developing a
so-called “universal” influenza vaccine. Such a vaccine would offer long-term
protection against multiple seasonal and pandemic influenza viruses.

The
supplement articles detail ongoing research and what remains to be learned
about influenza—such as how the human immune system responds to influenza
infection and vaccination. Experts also discuss how such research might
influence vaccine design approaches and help the public health community better
prepare for the next influenza pandemic.

In closing
remarks, Drs. Crank and Graham, along with John R. Mascola, M.D., VRC director,
note, “Vaccinology is experiencing a revolution thanks to scientific and
technological breakthroughs of the past decade, and hopefully we can find the
resolve, political will, and new business plans to take full advantage of these
new opportunities and prepare ourselves before the next pandemic arrives.”

National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

NIAID
conducts and supports research — at NIH, throughout the United States, and
worldwide — to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and
to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses.
News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on
the NIAID website.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the United States’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.

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