science

UW researches more effective and inclusive flu vaccine

 The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Veterinary Medicine has conducted research that provided new insights into creating an alternative and more widely inclusive seasonal influenza vaccine.

Under Marulasiddappa Suresh, a professor of Immunology in the School of Veterinary Medicine, a team was able to find a method of vaccination that would be able to fight multiple strains of influenza. This vaccination would not have to be administered every year, as the current vaccination is. 

This new type of vaccine would utilize T-cells, white blood cells that are essential to the immune system, to protect against influenza. Suresh’s team found a way to create T-cell immunity for multiple strains of influenza.

Flu viruses mutate frequently and change between geographic regions; This research is on the verge of developing a “universal flu vaccine,” Suresh said. This new, adaptable, vaccine will be able to fight many different strains of influenza by attacking a specific protein in the virus, one that is present across different strains.

This vaccination strategy is also being tested against tuberculosis, human respiratory syncytial virus and COVID-19. 

Vaccination with the T-cells, instead of with a live virus, makes receiving the vaccine much more widely accessible. Live virus vaccinations can be harmful to those who are pregnant and immunocompromised, but having a T-cell based vaccination would remedy this issue. 

People who are pregnant or immunocompromised were not given the live virus vaccine due to risk of getting the virus. These demographics would now be able to receive a vaccination without this risk of further compromising their immune systems.

While this research is being conducted, UHS is administering flu vaccinations to students and employees on campus at Nielsen Tennis Stadium and the Nicholas Recreation Center. This vaccination is “inactivated” -- meaning there is no live virus in the vaccine -- and needs to be taken annually. Flu shots given by UHS are “meant to protect you and those around you,” the university says appointments can be made online through UHS. 

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