Doctors have long urged patients to get yearly flu shots. And with influenza season soon on its way, a new research study by Oklahoma scientists adds yet another reason to follow this medical advice.
In a paper published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology, OMRF and University of Oklahoma Health Science Center scientists found that half of the patients given the regular seasonal flu vaccine also made antibodies to fight the H1N1 “swine flu” strain of influenza.
“It was a small test group, but the results were clear: Even if a new strain of virus comes along, the regular vaccine may provide some protection,” said OMRF researcher Linda Thompson, Ph.D., who led the study with OUHSC’s Gillian Air, Ph.D.
The flu vaccine contains proteins derived from the coat of the virus. The immune system sees these proteins as foreign and makes antibodies that bind them to prevent the influenza virus from infecting cells and replicating. This process prepares the body to make quick immune responses to disease-causing flu viruses, often preventing illness.
In the new research study, physicians administered a seasonal flu vaccine—which did not contain swine-origin H1N1 strains—to 10 people. In addition to creating antibodies to the three strains of flu contained in the vaccine, 5 of the 10 who received the shot also made antibodies to swine flu.
“The real lesson here is that the flu shot, which is already an important part of staying healthy, may be more helpful than we knew,” Thompson said.
OMRF scientist Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., also contributed to the research. The study was funded through a contract with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.