Immune cell discovery research suggests possible Universal Flu Vaccine
Written by Alyssa Clark
Contrary to the public’s belief, the 2009 swine flu epidemic has become a recently pivotal tool in developing new understandings of the common flu— and we thought nothing good would come of that horrendous swine flu outbreak.
Recently, researchers have been analyzing and conducting experiments on the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic in hopes of gearing a new vaccine that will help to protect the public’s health from treacherous flu-like symptoms that we all know too well. Positive results have been moving these scientists forward into now thinking it’s possible to develop some kind of universal preventative vaccine.
Based out of the Imperial College at London, England, the study pulled students right as the flu was beginning in autumn of 2009. They studied a poll 342 collected staff members and students, diverse in backgrounds and other demographics, and began collecting data right at the beginning of the outbreak. The collected group were asked to record symptoms of the flu over the next two flu seasons.
The goal of the study is to determine what factors allow some people to resist severe symptoms even when directly exposed to the flu virus. A connection was soon developed between those who had only mild symptoms or no symptoms having more CD8 T cells, compared to those whose experienced severe symptoms of the flu having fewer CD8 T cells. These CD8 T cells are a type of virus-killing agent and immune cell, and move throughout an individual’s bloodstream .
Published in the Nature Medicine online journal this past weekend, the authors of the study can now deduce that if a vaccine can be created to produce more CD8 T cells within an individual’s bloodstream, we could have ourselves a way of warding off the treacherous symptoms of the flu.
"New strains of flu are continuously emerging, some of which are deadly, and so the Holy Grail is to create a universal vaccine that would be effective against all strains of flu," study leader Professor Ajit Lalvani said in an Imperial College London news release.
"The immune system produces these CD8 T-cells in response to usual seasonal flu. Unlike antibodies, they target the core of the virus, which doesn't change, even in new pandemic strains. The 2009 pandemic provided a unique natural experiment to test whether T-cells could recognize, and protect us against, new strains that we haven't encountered before and to which we lack antibodies," Lalvani explained.
"Our findings suggest that by making the body produce more of this specific type of CD8 T-cell, you can protect people against symptomatic illness. This provides the blueprint for developing a universal flu vaccine."
Lalvani added: "We already know how to stimulate the immune system to make CD8 T-cells by vaccination. Now that we know these T-cells may protect, we can design a vaccine to prevent people getting symptoms and transmitting infection to others. This could curb seasonal flu annually and protect people against future pandemics."
About the Author
Alyssa Clark is the Editor of Healthcare Global
Skin Analytics wins NHSX award for AI skin cancer tool
An artificial intelligence-driven tool that identifies skin cancers has received an award from NHSX, the NHS England and Department of Health and Social Care's initiative to bring technology into the UK's national health system.
NHSX has granted the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award to DERM, an AI solution that can identify 11 types of skin lesion.
Developed by Skin Analytics, DERM analyses images of skin lesions using algorithms. Within primary care, Skin Analytics will be used as an additional tool to help doctors with their decision making.
In secondary care, it enables AI telehealth hubs to support dermatologists with triage, directing patients to the right next step. This will help speed up diagnosis, and patients with benign skin lesions can be identified earlier, redirecting them away from dermatology departments that are at full capacity due to the COVID-19 backlog.
Cancer Research has called the impact of the pandemic on cancer services "devastating", with a 42% drop in the number of people starting cancer treatment after screening.
DERM is already in use at University Hospitals Birmingham and Mid and South Essex Health & Care Partnership, where it has led to a significant reduction in unnecessary referrals to hospital.
Now NHSX have granted it the Phase 4 AI in Health and Care Award, making DERM available to clinicians across the country. Overall this award makes £140 million available over four years to accelerate the use of artificial intelligence technologies which meet the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Dr Lucy Thomas, Consultant Dermatologist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, said: “Skin Analytics’ receipt of this award is great news for the NHS and dermatology departments. It will allow us to gather real-world data to demonstrate the benefits of AI on patient pathways and workforce challenges.
"Like many services, dermatology has severe backlogs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This award couldn't have come at a better time to aid recovery and give us more time with the patients most in need of our help.”