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New research: Software shows promise of vaccine against influenza, possibly coronavirus too

Epigraph has already been used to predict therapeutic HIV vaccine candidates, and it has also shown promising potential as a vaccine against highly diverse Ebola and Marburg viruses.

Amid a surge in Covid cases in the state, the Bombay HC Tuesday refused to interfere in a plea filed by Thane Municipal Corporation councillors seeking directions that the civic body's general body meetings be conducted physically instead of via videoconferences (NIAID-RML via AP, File)

A novel computer algorithm, which could create a broadly reactive influenza vaccine for swine flu, also offers a path toward a pan-influenza vaccine and possibly a pan-coronavirus vaccine as well, according to a new paper published in Nature Communications.

The algorithm, Epigraph, has already been used to predict therapeutic HIV vaccine candidates, and it has also shown promising potential as a vaccine against highly diverse Ebola and Marburg viruses, protecting against disease when tested in an animal model. Vaccination with the Epigraph-designed product led to the development of a strong cross-reactive antibody response in mice, the study showed. In swine, it induced strong cross-reactive antibody and T-cell responses.

The research was conducted in a collaboration of researchers from the Nebraska Center for Virology at the University of Nebraska, St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Los Alamos, which functions under the US Department of Energy, describes itself as a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science.

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On its website, Los Alamos quoted computational biologist Bette Korber, co-author on the new study, as saying: “We developed the Epigraph strategy for this kind of problem, and it can, in theory, be applied to many diverse pathogens. The tool creates a cocktail of vaccine antigens designed to maximize efficacy across a highly diverse population”

Korber created the algorithm in partnership with her husband, James Theiler, a Los Alamos Fellow. She was quoted as saying: “This work takes us a step closer to a pan-swine flu virus vaccine. The hope is to eventually be prepared with an effective and rapid response if another swine flu epidemic begins to spread in humans, but this swine flu vaccine could also be useful in a veterinary setting.” The immune responses to the vaccine showed very promising breadth against diverse viral variants. “The same basic principles may be applicable to developing a pan-coronavirus vaccine to enable a rapid vaccine response to future coronavirus cross-species jumps,” said Korber.

Pigs are susceptible to swine, avian, and human influenza viruses, making them the perfect “mixing vessel” for novel reassorted influenza viruses, the authors note. These novel reassorted viruses have significant pandemic potential if zoonosis (transfer from pigs to humans) occurs, as seen with 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic.

The research was supported by the US National Institutes of Health. Los Alamos said the Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Disease (BEI) Repository provided the Influenza A virus isolates repository for reagents used in the study.

The open-access study, ‘Epigraph hemagglutinin vaccine induces broad cross-reactive immunity against swine H3 influenza virus’, is online at www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21508-6.

Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory/US Dept of Energy

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