New Clue to Fighting the Flu

January 23, 2015
Krystle Vermes

New research findings on the pathogen behind the flu could increase the effectiveness of influenza immunization programs.

New research findings on the pathogen behind the flu could increase the effectiveness of influenza immunization programs.

For their study published in eLife on January 16, 2015, researchers examined 10 years’ worth of data on the 4 influenza virus lineages that cause seasonal flu epidemics. In doing so, they revealed how the 2 influenza B lineages fundamentally differ from each other and the 2 influenza A virus lineages.

According to the researchers, flu vaccines are typically composed of both influenza A viruses, but only 1 of the influenza B viruses. However, more effective quadrivalent vaccines that target all lineages of the influenza pathogen were recently approved for use.

Although quadrivalent flu vaccines are more expensive and more challenging to create for the general public, the study authors suggested that expanding their administration in a specific population could eventually eradicate 1 of the influenza B lineages, which would allow the return to a vaccine that targets 3 viruses.

"Our research shows that school-aged children are more susceptible than adults to influenza B virus lineages, especially the Victoria lineage," said first study author Vijay Dhanasekaran in a press release. "This younger population should be targeted for the use of the quadrivalent influenza vaccines."

The researchers’ analysis also indicated that influenza B Yamagata viruses evolve at a much slower rate than influenza B Victoria viruses, so they may be easier to eradicate from all humans.