Media coverage of referenced paper:
No, it doesnt. Unless if by ‘universal flu vaccine’ you actually mean ‘gene therapy for everyone instead of flu shots’.
Look, heres what happens– Scientists sift through thousands and thousands and thousands of B-cells, the cells that make antibodies, and ID ones that make antibodies that are really good at neutralizing lots of different kinds of influenza or HIV.
What you have out the end is a neat laboratory reagent.
You do not have a potential vaccine.
That is because everyones immune system is random, at its core. Random mutation and natural selection in response to a pathogen. Now, you will make antibodies to protect you against chickenpox, and I will make antibodies to protect me against chickenpox, but our antibodies will be totally different. You cannot make two different people generate identical antibodies to an identical pathogen or vaccine, even identical twins. You certainly cannot make people generate a specific antibody unless you are doing it via gene therapy.
I will say that at least with a Super Awesome influenza antibody, that could at least be helpful as a therapy in emergency situations. For instance, someone who is bitten by a rabid bat gets passive immunotherapy in the form of ‘medical’ antibodies against the rabies virus. These arent antibodies that the infected person made, they are antibodies made in a lab or in a horse injected with a viral protein. The same principle might work in people infected with a severe form of influenza, or a drug resistant influenza, or maybe someone who is just very old or young and cant deal with the virus on their own. A passively administered Super Awesome antibody might be a nifty trick for MDs to have up their sleeves.
So finding a couple antibodies that are REALLY good at neutralizing influenza is really cool, but it has nothing to do with vaccines. And its not the scientists fault its getting spun like this, its not like they misspoke or are delusional. The scientists on this paper understand what they found and what it means:
“This would mainly be useful as a fast-acting therapy against epidemic or pandemic influenza viruses,” said Wilson. “The ultimate goal is an active vaccine that elicits a robust, long-term antibody response against those vulnerable epitopes; but developing that is going to be a challenging task.”
Why the headline for that piece is ‘Discovery of Natural Antibody Brings a Universal Flu Vaccine a Step Closer’ is beyond me *rolleyes*
MEDIA! Y U NO LISTEN TO THE SCIENTISTS YOU INTERVIEW??
H/T to my facebook buddy Kevin!