Guest Lecture : Towards Development of Universal Flu Vaccine

Hello all! Science related post! 🙂

In this semester i take one very interesting class, Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunobiology. Although my major interest is not medical microbiology I think that this class is very interesting 😀 We also have a very inspiring lecturer, Mrs. Ernawati Arifin Giri-Rachman, my former Cell and Molecular Biology lecturer and Mrs. Debbie Sofie Retnoningrum from Pharmacy Department. 

Last monday we had a very interesting guest lecture from Professor Timothy R. Hirst from Gamma Vaccines Australia. They mainly talk about development of universal flu vaccine. In this post, I will give a little review about what i have learned from this lecture.

Why Influenza?

Although it’s considered as a simple disease, influenza is actually killing many people yearly. Seasonal influenza, or the kind of influenza that appears yearly, contributes to approximately 500.000 deaths/year.

Beside seasonal influenza, there is another kind of influenza with more severe effect to human. Pandemic influenza has a more “unpredictable” nature. Pandemic influenza emerged from recombination of different influenza strain thus creating a new kind of influenza. 

Nowadays, people put more emphasis on pandemic influenza, because we do not know the exact time and where the next pandemic will appear. 

And what people afraid most right now is the H5N1 influenza pandemic. Originally H5N1 was an avian flu strain and it cannot transmit between human. However, if recombination happens with human influenza strain it would create a severe effect, a powerful virus that is highly infectious.


What is our current defense from influenza virus?

As we all know, influenza vaccine has been created all over the world. However, our current vaccine system is not very protective.

Talking about the number of vaccine produced it is always less more than the demand. In 2007, it is estimated that only 408 million flu vaccines is produced despite of the number of world population that overgrown that number, 6 milllion people.

The vaccine for seasonal flu is also not that protective. Every year WHO isolate influenza virus strain and based on the prediction of dominant strain that will appear, they create a seasonal flu vaccine. But their prediction is not always correct and might causing the administration of seasonal flu vaccine not very effective.

Vaccine also takes a long time to be developed. Generally if a pandemic happens, it will take approximately 6 months from isolating the virus strain until a vaccine is produced. It means that we are always way later than the development of the virus itself.


So, what does Gamma-Flu Vaccine offer?

Gamma-Flu vaccine is proposed to be universal-flu vaccine. One vaccine for both seasonal and pandemic influenza infection? How does it possible? Gamma-Flu vaccine, same as its name, is using whole virus that is inactivated by gamma rays. Gamma rays has a great energy that can break virus genome. Although virus genome is being destroyed, most of the protein remain intact. 

This one difference in way of virus inactivation create a huge difference for the implementation. Former flu vaccine used part of virus subunit that is specific to one kind of virus, that’s why former flu vaccine is specific to one kind of virus. However, since in this case whole virus is still there, the flu vaccine can act not that specific. Besides that, the wholesome of virus particle make the vaccine behaves just like a life virus, they induce cytotoxic T Cells to kill infected cells.

This particular properties have been checked in laboratory experiment. For example, one virus is made from H3N2 virus antigen and it was challenged by H1N1 and the vaccine can still overcome the H1N1 infection.

What makes this vaccine special is that it can be administrated via intranasal route. Making vaccine administration more convenient especially in developing country like Indonesia. People don’t have to go to hospital to get the vaccine injected, instead they can just use spray-like device to administrate the vaccine to themselves.

In conclusion, I really think that this Gamma-Flu Vaccine is a good emerging solution towards influenza virus infection 😀 and this lecture really open my mind, that actually a universal vaccine CAN be created! 😀

Enough for today, will come again with new posts soon!




Afifa Ayu Koesoema

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