Influenza is a major health issue in the United States and it claims more than 45,000 lives every year. This disease is seen as a preventable disease, barring for a vaccination that can immunize humans against the disease. As of now, yearly shots are administered as a preventive measure. Despite this, thousands of people fall sick and thousands die. Latest researches have revealed that a universal vaccination against influenza will be a reality in five more years.
Vaccinations for influenza, which are used now, utilize external proteins that are present of the virus that causes the disease. Precisely, the strains used are H3N2 and H1N1. When these are injected into the body through the vaccination, the body creates antibodies against these strains and becomes immune. But the problem with these proteins is that they are different for different strains and hence, they mutate and virus develops immunity. As a result, the vaccination cannot be effective against the mutated proteins. Developing complete immunity against the influenza virus with the available vaccinations is not possible.
Latest developments in the research on influenza virus have brought to light two proteins that are similar in almost 90% of influenza A strains. The two proteins are Matrix Protein 1 and Nucleoprotein. These can now be used to effective help the body develop immunity against majority of virus in the influenza A family.
The discovery of these two common strains can be a huge help in treating conditions such as Swine Flu. They are less prone to mutation and hence, using them for vaccination will prevent the virus developing immunity against the antibodies. A researcher from the United Kingdom, Sarah Gilbert of the Jenner Institute said that Nucleoprotien, which is present in the RNA of the virus, is one of the most essential proteins for the survival and stability of the virus. If the virus loses this protein, then it will perish. Further, it is not possible for the virus to mutate this protein. She said that while viral RNA is covered with nucleoprotein, Matrix protein is a basic building block and forms the interior layer of the shell surrounding the virus.
As of now, yearly vaccinations are necessary since influenza virus undergoes mutation every year and hence, a new strain has to be developed according to the new virus. With the discovery of proteins that do not mutate, researchers are confident that a permanent remedy for the virus is definitely on the way.