Using an algorithm, researchers have designed a swine flu vaccine candidate that showed protection against a dozen flu strains.
Pigs are termed ‘mixing vessel’ of flu because they are susceptible to swine, avian, and human influenza viruses. Once they are infected with more than one virus, the viruses can swap genes; thus, resulting in a completely new variant. These variants can then infect humans and cause pandemics. For example, the H1N1 virus that caused the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Since then, researchers have documented over 400 H1N1 variant infections in humans. Therefore, Eric Weaver has spent years working on a swine flu vaccine with the potential to work against multiple variants.
Weaver and his colleagues used a computer algorithm, epigraph, to design a pan-influenza vaccine. Bette Korber, a computational biologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, co-developed the algorithm. In the past, epigraph has successfully predicted vaccine candidates for HIV, Ebola, and Marburg viruses. They tested their epigraph-designed flu vaccine in mice and pigs.
Epigraph Vaccine Works Better Than Commercial One
Weaver and colleagues outlined the results of their investigation in the journal Nature Communications. According to the results, the epigraph vaccine invoked a greater immune response than the commercial vaccine FluSure, in both mice and pigs.
In mice, the team tested the vaccine against 20 different strains of the H3 subtype of Influenza virus. Mice with the epigraph vaccine showed a higher production of antibodies. Moreover, they also reported lower weight loss. In pigs, the researchers noted stronger cross-reactive antibodies and T-cell responses.
In conclusion, the results provide a promising model for human influenza.
Bullard, B.L., Corder, B.N., DeBeauchamp, J. et al. Epigraph hemagglutinin vaccine induces broad cross-reactive immunity against swine H3 influenza virus. Nat Commun 12, 1203 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-21508-6