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Seasonal flu in early life can predict susceptibility to future infections, says study

Published in eLife, the findings may help improve estimates of both age-specific risk of contracting seasonal influenza infections, and vaccine effectiveness in similarly vaccinated populations

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi | July 10, 2020 1:20:17 pm
influenza Seasonal influenza is an acute respiratory infection. (Source: getty images)

Early infections of influenza can likely predict how the virus will affect people in the future, across different ages, and could impact the effectiveness of flu vaccines, as per a new study.

Published in eLife, the findings may help improve estimates of both age-specific risk of contracting seasonal influenza infections, and vaccine effectiveness in similarly vaccinated populations.

Seasonal influenza is an acute respiratory infection that is typically of three types: A, B and C even though C is much less common, as mentioned by Science Daily.

“Since the risk of influenza infection in a given age group changes over time, factors other than age may affect our susceptibility to infection,” first author Philip Arevalo, a postdoctoral researcher in senior author Sarah Cobey’s lab, Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, US, was quoted as saying.

Read| Coronavirus versus the flu: What’s the difference?

Influenza A viruses are further classified into subtypes, with the A(H1N1) and A(H3N2) subtypes currently circulating in humans. The virus A (H1N1) is also written as A (H1N1)pdm09 as it caused the 2009 pandemic and replaced the A(H1N1) virus which had circulated before that year.

Influenza is among the 10 major threats to global health, according to World Health Organisation (WHO). There are about one billion cases of influenza every year, resulting in 2,90,000 to 6,50,000 influenza-related respiratory deaths.

For the study, the researchers applied statistical models to flu cases identified through seasonal studies of vaccine effectiveness from 2007-2008 to 2017-2018 seasons in the Marshfield Epidemiologic Study Area in Marshfield, Wisconsin.

The study found that early infection reduces the risk of people needing to see medical attention for infections with the same subtype later in life. his effect is stronger for H1N1 compared to H3N2. The model also revealed that the effectiveness of flu vaccines varies with both age and birth year, suggesting that this effect also depends on early exposure.

“This would lead to better forecasting and vaccination strategies to help combat future flu seasons,” senior author Sarah Cobey, Principal Investigator at the Department of Ecology and Evolution said in a statement.

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