From the Journals

NIAID proposes 3-pronged plan for universal influenza vaccine



Three specific research areas were proposed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in its development plan for a universal influenza vaccine, as detailed in a report published online in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the NIAID, spoke with Frontline Medical News in an interview regarding the plan and noted that he and his colleagues felt that it was important to accelerate the effort for a universal vaccine.

Dr. Anthony Fauci

The plan will focus on: transmission, natural history, and pathogenesis studies utilizing prospective cohorts; influenza immunity and correlates of immune protection; and strategies in rational vaccine design to elicit broad, protective immune responses, according to Emily J. Erbelding, MD, MPH, director of microbiology and infectious diseases at the NIAID, and her associates in their report. They noted that the three research areas are not prioritized and that advances in each are expected to be interdependent.

“The strategic plan also includes a description of research resources essential to advancing these three research areas that [the] NIAID will develop, support, and provide for the scientific community,” wrote Dr. Erbelding and her coauthors.

The development plan comes 8 months after scientists from academia, industry, and government convened for the NIAID Pathway to a Universal Influenza Vaccine workshop to address knowledge gaps and strategy, which was summarized last year in the journal Immunity (2017;47: 599-603). The scientists at the workshop developed criteria that would define a universal vaccine and decided that a universal vaccine for influenza should do three things: be at least 75% effective against symptomatic influenza infection; protect against group I and II influenza A viruses; and have durable protections that lasts at least 1 year and preferably through multiple seasons.

“Clearly, a vaccine that would cover most or all seasonal strains of influenza and also provide protection during a pandemic is highly desirable,” wrote Catharine I. Paules, MD, of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and her coauthors in the workshop summary.

Dr. Fauci told Frontline Medical News how “experts from all over the country addressed their thoughts and concerns with us last year [at the workshop], and now we have a development plan,” he said. “But the next step will be doing the research and finding more resources. ... The work is yet to be done.”

The development plan was published amid an ongoing historic flu season.

Dr. Fauci noted that this season had particular circumstances that made it worse than normal. “I don’t think that, had we had this plan in place a year ago, it would have had an impact on this flu season,” he said.

The authors reported no relevant financial conflicts and that the National Institutes of Health produced this plan.

SOURCE: Erbelding E et al. J Infect Dis. 2018 Feb 28. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiy103.

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