Infant Flu Vaccine Now Within Arm's Reach

The research shows conclusively that the influenza vaccine is effective at protecting people from sickness. But unfortunately, not every person is eligible to receive the potentially life-saving vaccination.

pediatrics, hospital medicine, infectious disease, influenza, vaccination, flu

The research shows conclusively that the influenza vaccine is effective at protecting people from sickness. But unfortunately, not every person is eligible to receive the potentially life-saving vaccination.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone at least six months of age get a flu vaccine, unless otherwise specified. However, this means that infants younger than six months are at an even higher risk of getting sick.

“Currently, the best protection for neonatal babies is to vaccinate the mother and all those who will have close contact with the infant,” lead author Michael Sherman, MD, professor emeritus in the Department of Child Health at the MU School of Medicine, said in a news release.

  • The MD Magazine Influenza condition center

Most vaccines contain aluminum hydroxide, or ALUM, which is an adjuvant that attracts white blood cells to the vaccination site. However, ALUM does not help infants because it doesn’t boost immature immune cells. Breast milk contains a protein, lactoferrin, which boosts the immune system and helps protect infants against certain infections. Therefore, the researchers hypothesized that they could make an infant vaccine by trading ALUM with lactoferrin.

Sherman and his team tested the idea on mice. The animals were the approximate age of infants younger than six months old. They were either given the adjuvant ALUM or lactoferrin, and then all of them were given the H1N1 flu virus — an influenza A strain. Lactoferrin worked slightly better than ALUM and was four to five times more effective than the control agent, according to the findings published in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications.

“Our recent study was meant to test the possibility of creating a safe and effective flu vaccine for very high-risk premature infants. Now that we have, we feel that the use of a natural protein would make immunization not only possible but more accepted,” Sherman explained.

The team will continue studying lactoferrin’s ability to fight infections, such as pneumonia, with the hopes that more vaccines can be developed one day.

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