In the past 70 years, vaccine manufacturers have utilized chicken eggs. By injecting the influenza into the egg, replication of the virus occurs and is further used to produce the vaccine. The flu shot's primary function is to train the human immune system to fight the virus. Research conducted by Dr. Nicholas Wu of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI); however, has found that there is a problem in egg-based vaccine production, specifically for the H3N2 subtype of influenza. Wu used X-ray crystallography to detect a mutation called L194P found on the virus's hemagglutinin glycoprotein. This mutation inhibits an immune response because the protein will not be recognized by the immune system. The L194P mutation has adapted to egg-based production, increased motility, and disrupted the major antibody target site on the virus surface. Due to this adaptation in the virus, the flu vaccine has become less effective in humans and recent vaccines have only shown 33% efficacy against the H3N2 viruses.
With flu season in effect, this article should be a public health concern and indicative of further research in flu vaccination. Physicians should be advised of this new issue and further educate their patients that the flu vaccine does not guarantee prevention of illness. While this study is concerning, it is not a surprise that the virus has learned how to adapt and mutate because egg-based production has been used for quite some time. With this in mind, it is clear that scientists must explore new ways of producing the flu vaccination so that is more effective
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