Australian researchers developing single vaccine for flu and pneumonia

Amanda Lyons

21/05/2019 3:55:29 PM

As Australia remains in the grip of a severe flu season, a new vaccine may be able to take on two deadly respiratory diseases at once.

Laboratory research
Researchers hope the developing vaccine can provide enhanced cross-protective immunity to different flu strains when given at the same time as the new class of pneumococcal vaccine.

Flu season started early in 2019 – and with devastating effect, with as many people diagnosed so far this year as in all of 2018.
Australia has also reached another unwanted milestone, with a total of 79 deaths by mid-May – 26 of them in Victoria alone, including three children – compared to 57 in the whole of last year.

Meanwhile, the country has seen influenza vaccine supplies hit by distribution issues, with South Australia seemingly the most affected. However, the state is also the site of groundbreaking research in the field.

A team at the University of Adelaide, led by Dr Mohammed Alsharifi and Professor James Paton, is developing a new vaccine that could be a formidable weapon against two of the world’s most deadly respiratory diseases.
The vaccine is designed to combat two types of infection at once, influenza and pneumococcal – a virus and a bacterium – which would overcome the limitations of the existing vaccines used for both.
‘Influenza infection predisposes patients to severe pneumococcal pneumonia, with very high mortality rates,’ Dr Alsharifi said.
‘Despite this well-known synergism, current vaccination strategies target the individual pathogens. We’re investigating combining our novel influenza and pneumococcal vaccines into a single-vaccination approach.’
The research team published a paper in Nature microbiology earlier this week, outlining how the new influenza A vaccine under development can provide enhanced cross-protective immunity to different flu strains when given at the same time as the new class of pneumococcal vaccine.
The enhancement is associated with direct physical interaction between the virus and the bacterium, which, when they join forces, can cause great calamity.
‘Influenza virus and pneumococcus worked together to cause up to 100 million deaths during the great “Spanish flu” pandemic of 1918–1919,’ Professor Paton said. 

‘A century later, we have shown analogous, but this time highly protective, synergy with our novel vaccination strategy that targets both pathogens simultaneously.’
The study builds on earlier research into a new class of inactivated vaccines targeting components of both the virus and the bacterium that don’t change between strains.
This could have a significant effect on prevention of both diseases, as current flu vaccines focus on surface molecules that are affected by mutations, which is why annual updates are required to keep up as viruses evolve, and current pneumococcal vaccines last longer, but only cover a minority of disease-causing strains.
Professor Paton believes the implementation of the single vaccine could help future planning efforts for prevention of these deadly diseases.
‘When we combine [the vaccines] together we get better protection against both virus and bacteria,’ he said.
‘The only real protection from flu is effective prevention and this will give us a vaccination strategy.’

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Doug Raymond   18/07/2019 4:39:14 PM

Bad luck for those with CAPS who can’t tolerate pneumovax.