H3N2 Flu Vaccine Proves Troublesome to Researchers

H3N2 Flu Vaccine Proves Troublesome to Researchers

And now they are trying to fix it
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It’s that time of year again, and I’m not talking about the all-too-early Christmas cookies that appeared at CVS last week. Instead, it’s time for everyone’s favorite vaccine: the flu shot. The yearly Flu vaccine contains the ingredients necessary to prevent individuals from getting the flu. What is not as commonly known is that the flu vaccine actually is meant to protect against multiple strains of the virus. Scientists must make their best guess – which needs to be made as early as February— as to which strains they believe will be the most virulent that year.

According to the Boston Globe the shot is meant to protect against H1N1 and H3N2 – two A influenza strains – and a few influenza B strains. According to data that was presented at an infectious disease conference that took place in San Diego last week, the vaccine did not live up to expectations for preventing H3N2, which is one of the most dangerous strains of the flu. According to Wired the vaccine proved to be 63 percent effectiveness for influenza B and 65 percent for H1N1, it was only 38 percent affective at preventing H3N2.

The obvious question is: why are scientists having a hard time making an effective formula? The answer lies in the method in which the flu vaccine is created. According to the CDC there are three ways in which a vaccine can be created: egg based vaccines, cell-based vaccines, and recombinant flu vaccines. The first two require the use of chicken eggs – which is why when you get a shot the administrator will ask if you have an egg allergy – and the last method was approved in 2012 and there is only one FDA approved vaccine of this type. The first method is what has been traditionally used. The virus is grown inside the egg, and then killed before it goes through a purifying process leaving the virus antigen which is then purified.

However, the virus that you generally want to prevent is a human flu virus—meaning it prefers human cells. According to Wired, to solve this, two strains of flu are injected into the egg: the target and one that likes chickens. When viruses mingle, they will share genetic information. At this point, the researcher will choose one of the strains that looks like the one that prefers a human habitat. They use this new strain to inject into new eggs to generate the vaccine.

Why does this matter? This has to do with how the vaccine works in the human body. According to Wired the virus gives off a protein called hemagglutinin that is detectable to the human immune system. This is what alerts the body to the existence of the virus so that it can eradicate it. These proteins are capable of mutating, and in the case of H3N2 it mutates faster than H1N1 and other strains. The commonly used process explained earlier? Unfortunately it seems that it makes the mutation happen even more rapidly—so quickly that the body sometimes cannot detect it in time to trigger the immune system.

In practicality what this means for researchers is that there needs to be more focus in perfecting the third type of manufacturing type mentioned earlier – the recombinant vaccine process. As of yet, there has not been a method developed using this process in the massive scale that would be required to produce the number of vaccines that would be needed. As with all things in science, it is an ever evolving process in pursuit of perfection. However, while the vaccine might not be as effective as researchers would like, it is still important to get a vaccine—especially those who are at greater risk for complications. Any protection is, after all, preferable to no protection – especially against H3N2 which remains the strain that leads to the most hospitalizations.

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5 Perks Of Having A Long-Distance Best Friend

The best kind of long-distance relationship.
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Sometimes, people get annoyed when girls refer to multiple people as their "best friend," but they don't understand. We have different types of best friends. There's the going out together best friend, the see each other everyday best friend and the constant, low maintenance best friend.

While I'm lucky enough to have two out of the three at the same school as me, my "low maintenance" best friend goes to college six hours from Baton Rouge.

This type of friend is special because no matter how long you go without talking or seeing each other, you're always insanely close. Even though I miss her daily, having a long-distance best friend has its perks. Here are just a few of them...

1. Getting to see each other is a special event.

Sometimes when you see someone all the time, you take that person and their friendship for granted. When you don't get to see one of your favorite people very often, the times when you're together are truly appreciated.

2. You always have someone to give unbiased advice.

This person knows you best, but they probably don't know the people you're telling them about, so they can give you better advice than anyone else.

3. You always have someone to text and FaceTime.

While there may be hundreds of miles between you, they're also just a phone call away. You know they'll always be there for you even when they can't physically be there.

4. You can plan fun trips to visit each other.

When you can visit each other, you get to meet the people you've heard so much about and experience all the places they love. You get to have your own college experience and, sometimes, theirs, too.

5. You know they will always be a part of your life.

If you can survive going to school in different states, you've both proven that your friendship will last forever. You both care enough to make time for the other in the midst of exams, social events, and homework.

The long-distance best friend is a forever friend. While I wish I could see mine more, I wouldn't trade her for anything.

Cover Image Credit: Just For Laughs-Chicago

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A Second Person Has Achieved Long-Term Remission Of The HIV Virus

A second man has had long term remission of the HIV virus.

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Over a decade after the first man, known as the Berlin Patient, was declared HIV-free, another patient may also be cured. Though it's too early for scientists to say for sure, the London Patient has been in a long term remission for around 18 months without the help of medication. Both men were treated with a bone marrow transplant. However, these stem cells carried a rare mutation in the genes that affect the production of the CCR5 protein, which HIV viruses latch onto to enter the cell. The virus cannot latch onto the mutated version of the protein, thus blocking its entry into the cells.

With the transplant of these HIV resistant genes, the body effectively builds a new immune system free of the virus.

After the Berlin Patient went into remission, scientists tried and failed to replicate the cure and were unable to until the London Patient, whose HIV count has reduced into undetectable numbers. While this is extremely helpful, bone marrow transplants are not a viable option to cure all HIV infected people, as it is an extremely risky process and comes with many side effects. Even so, scientists are developing ways to extract bone marrow from HIV infected people, genetically modifying them to produce the same mutations on the CCR5 gene or the inability to express that gene at all, and then replacing it back into the patient so they can still build resistance without the negative effects of a bone marrow transplant. There have also been babies whose genomes have been edited to remove the CCR5 gene, allowing them to grow up resistant to HIV.

This does not eliminate the threat of the HIV virus, however.

There is another strand of the virus, called X4, that uses the CXCR4 protein to enter the cell. Even if the editing of the CCR5 allows immunity against one strand, it is possible for a person to be infected with the X4 strand of the virus. Despite this, immunization against one strand could save a countless number of lives, as well as the vaccine that is currently in the stages of development for HIV. Along with the London Patient, there are 37 other patients who have received bone marrow transplants, six of which from donors without the mutation.

Of these patients, number 19, known as the Dusseldorf Patient, has been off anti-HIV drugs for 4 months. It may not be a complete cure, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.

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