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URMC Researchers Discover Rare Flu-Thwarting Mutation

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A rare and improbable mutation in a protein encoded by an influenza virus renders the virus defenseless against the body’s immune system. This University of Rochester Medical Center discovery could provide a new strategy for live influenza vaccines in the future.

A new approach to the live flu vaccine would be particularly advantageous right now after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped recommending use of the live attenuate flu vaccine, FluMist® earlier this year. Several studies found that the pain-free nasal spray, which was used in about one-third of young children in the U.S., offered no protection to that especially vulnerable population. The flu shot, on the other hand, performed well and the CDC recommends using this vaccine in place of FluMist®.

“There is a need to understand what's happening with the existing live vaccine and potentially a need to develop a new one,” said David Topham, Ph.D., Marie Curran Wilson and Joseph Chamberlain Wilson Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at URMC and author of the study. “We proposed that the mutation we found could be used to create a live vaccine.”

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