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Flu

A Call for A Better Flu Vaccine

A 10-year analysis of statistics on the influenza B virus could lead to better flu immunization programs, researchers say.

The study was led by Assistant Professor Vijay Dhanasekaran and Associate Professor Gavin Smith from Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School (Duke-NUS). It’s the largest comparative analysis of the human influenza B virus to date.

Influenza epidemics, which cause up to 500,000 deaths worldwide every year, are caused by four influenza virus “lineages.” Of those, two are influenza A lineages, and two are influenza B lineages, named Victoria and Yamagata. The influenza A lineages are the more common ones and have occasionally caused pandemics.

Although commonly administered vaccines focus on the influenza A lineages and one influenza B lineage, they may not be enough to protect vulnerable populations such as children, according to the study.

“Our research shows that school aged children are more susceptible than adults to influenza B virus lineages, especially the Victoria lineage,” explained first author Asst Prof Dhanasekaran from the Emerging Infectious Diseases Program at Duke-NUS. “This younger population should be targeted for the use of the..influenza vaccines” that battle all four strains.

That type of vaccine, known as “quadirivalent,” has been approved for use. But they are harder to prepare, cost more and are not as widely available as other kinds of vaccines.

The team said that expanding the use of the quadrivalent influenza vaccine might help eradicate the Yamagata lineage from humans. The Yamagata moves more slowly than the Victoria lineage.

The study was authored by a group of international scientists from Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Switzerland and Singapore and marked a major collaboration between Duke-NUS and the Bioinformatics Institute (BII), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

The findings were published in the journal eLife.

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