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New Vaccine Strategy Offers Promise for Infants and Universal Protection

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New Vaccine Strategy Offers Promise for Infants and Universal Protection

New Vaccine Strategy Offers Promise for Infants and Universal Protection.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proposes a revolutionary vaccine method for infants. This single-dose approach offers continued protection even against mutated viruses, potentially paving the way for “universal vaccines.”

Traditional Vaccines vs. New Strategy

Currently, vaccines like the flu shot require annual updates to address new variants. Others, like COVID-19 vaccines, are updated less frequently. Traditional methods often use weakened or inactive viruses to trigger the immune system’s T-cell production, which fights the virus.

This new strategy, tested in mice, also utilizes a modified virus. However, instead of relying on the immune system’s response, it leverages small interfering RNA molecules (siRNA) to impede viral spread. Each siRNA molecule targets a specific disease, allowing for creation of separate vaccines for different illnesses.

How the New Strategy Works

Viruses often produce a protein that blocks siRNA production. This new approach utilizes a mutant virus incapable of producing this protein. This allows the body’s natural siRNAs to weaken the virus, regardless of mutations and variant formation.

Researchers from the University of California, Riverside, believe this strategy bypasses the need for an immune response, making it suitable for infants with developing immune systems.

Successful Trial in Baby Mice

The research team tested this method in baby mice, confirming siRNA production. When vaccinated against a mouse disease called Nodamura, the baby mice showed “rapid and complete protection” against the virus.

Potential Benefits

  • Broad Applicability: The researchers believe this strategy can be applied to numerous viruses.
  • Variant Resistance: This method offers protection against viral mutations and variants.
  • Infant Suitability: Bypassing the immune response makes it ideal for infants with developing immune systems.

“It is broadly applicable to any number of viruses, broadly effective against any variant of a virus and safe for a broad spectrum of people,” stated Dr. Rong Hai, a study author and virologist. “This could be the universal vaccine that we have been looking for.”

Current Challenges for Infants

While some vaccines are approved for infants, many vaccines for diseases like measles, COVID-19, and the flu require waiting until after six months of age. This is due to an immature immune system that may lead to a diminished response or lack of effectiveness. However, infants are highly susceptible to severe infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccinating all household members and close contacts to protect infants under six months. Additionally, research suggests vaccinated mothers can pass antibodies to their babies through the umbilical cord and breast milk, offering some protection. Newer research has shown success with RSV vaccines administered to pregnant mothers, protecting infants for up to six months after birth.

The Future of siRNA Vaccines

While no siRNA vaccines are currently approved, researchers are developing them for diseases like COVID-19 and the flu. This research team previously confirmed the use of siRNA by humans and mammals to fight viruses. They are currently developing a flu vaccine based on this strategy.

A Sprayable Solution?

Researchers envision this vaccine as a nasal spray rather than an injection. “Respiratory infections move through the nose, so a spray might be an easier delivery system,” explained Dr. Hai. Similar nasal spray flu vaccines already exist and have shown effectiveness in children. Several research groups are working on nasal COVID-19 vaccines, with China and India already approving nasal spray boosters.

This new study offers a promising path towards a single-dose, universally protective vaccine that can be administered even to infants. Further research and development are needed, but this approach holds significant potential for the future of immunizations.

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