Current vaccines for influenza provide protection against specific seasonal influenza A strains and their close relatives, but not against more distant seasonal influenza A viruses and new avian influenza A viruses, such as H5N1, which still poses a real global health concern.
Now, a team of researchers, led by Tao Dong and Andrew McMichael, has generated data that may help in providing broad protection against the virus.
In the study, subsets of immune cells known as memory CD4+ and memory CD8+ T cells from individuals from the UK and Viet Nam were found to respond to fragments of proteins from both a seasonal influenza A strain and a strain of H5N1.
Nearly all people tested had cells that cross-reacted between the seasonal influenza A strain and H5N1.
The researchers therefore suggest that adding fragments of influenza proteins to current vaccines for influenza might boost memory CD4+ and memory CD8+ T cell responses towards both seasonal and avian influenza viruses, providing broad protection.