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New super vaccine may be 'Achilles heel' in eradicating killer flu


December 21, 2011 - London

Scientists led by one of Indian-origin have discovered a super vaccine that stops the flu virus mutating into more lethal and drug-resistant strains, saving millions of lives.

According to scientists, the major discovery could be the key to eradicating the virus after scientists said they may have finally found its "Achilles heel".

Seasonal flu vaccines are not 100 percent effective because the virus mutates every winter, which means new-formula jabs need to be produced each year, giving manufacturers just months to produce sufficient stocks.

Current flu jabs target two Proteins on the surface of the virus but they constantly change in a bid to fool the immune system.

The new discovery means a vaccine could be made quickly, in large quantities and be specifically tailored to stop the virus mutating, which would save ­millions of lives around the world.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, US, led by Professor Ram Sasisekharan, analysed the network of amino acids that make up the viral Protein haemagglutinin (HA).

They identified which amino acids are most likely to mutate.

According to Sasisekharan, this knowledge could help scientists produce vaccines that do not include versions of the flu that can mutate and so lead to "fitter" viruses.

"Now, for the first time, when we look at selecting a flu virus for use in a vaccine, we can select the one which is least likely to mutate," The Daily Express quoted John Oxford, Britain's leading flu expert as saying.

"That would lessen the chance of a more infectious mutant strain emerging. Fewer mutants moving around means people would be vaccinated to maximum effect. The more viruses we have moving around, the more ­problems we have," he said.

The study has been published online in the Nature journal.

ANI

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