Lifetime Immunity From the Flu

Scientists report in the current issue of the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology the isolation of a group of high-affinity antibodies that are potent inhibitors of a wide range of influenza viruses, including the H5N1 avian flu, the 1918 Spanish flu and some seasonal strains [1]. The antibodies may someday be used to create a vaccine that provides lifetime immunity from the flu.

Seasonal flu hospitalizes an average of 226,000 people in the U.S. annually, killing 36,000 every year [2]. Influenza A viruses have been associated with an increasing number of deaths; from 1990 — 1999, the greatest mean number of flu deaths were associated with influenza A (H3N2) viruses [3]. Each season, between one quarter- and a half-million people die of influenza worldwide [4].

Health Highlights – January 14, 2008

Health Highlights is a biweekly summary of particularly interesting articles from credible sources of health and medical information that we follow & read. For a complete list of recommeded sources, see our links page.

Health Highlights

Merck HIV Vaccine Increases Risk of HIV Infection

Merck has been testing a candidate HIV vaccine in two large phase II clinical trials; the STEP study in North and South America, the Caribbean and Australia, and a parallel study called Phambili in South Africa.

STEP was a multi-center, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase II test-of-concept clinical trial. Started in December 2004, enrollment in the study was completed by March 2007 and more than 2,500 participants had received all three doses of vaccine or placebo. STEP was evaluating two primary efficacy endpoints:hiv virus

  • Whether the vaccine prevented HIV infection in subjects who were HIV negative at the beginning of the study.
  • Whether the vaccine lowered the amount of virus in subjects who became HIV infected during the course of the study.

However, last month the drug trial was halted because the vaccine appeared to be increasing the risk of HIV infection among study participants. The South African study Phambili, which began in 2007 using the same vaccine has been halted [1].