Computer programs are being used by researchers to develop a fast and efficient method of generating vaccines for new strains of flu viruses.
Dimitris Papamichail, and a team of researchers from Stony Brook University have created algorithms that will design viruses that serve as live vaccines, which are then synthesized to specification.
The new method is called Synthetic Attenuated Virus Engineering (SAVE).
"Our approach is not only useful for influenza; it is also applicable to a wide range of viruses," said Papamichail.
In this study, the researchers used a novel approach to weaken the influenza virus: they made a synthetic genome of the virus containing hundreds of changes to its genetic code.
The computer algorithms indicate the best places in the genome to make the changes, such that the new synthetic genome encodes exactly the same proteins as the wild-type genome, but in lesser quantities.
"The probability of all the changes reverting themselves to produce a virulent strain is extremely unlikely," he says.
The findings are available in an online publication by Nature Biotechnology.