Egg-free flu vaccine - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Egg-free flu vaccine

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Madison (WKOW) -- It's flu shot season, and this year the pool of prospective "targets" includes nearly everyone, especially kids.

  For decades, the familiar flu vaccine has been incubated in fresh eggs.

  But now, there's a new vaccine in clinical trial -- that has nothing to do with eggs.

  A few flu seasons ago, Doctor Christine Hay's work followed her home when her young daughter got sick.

  Dr. Hay said, "and then the rest of us started getting sick one after another, all again with the flu, all of us having been vaccinated."

  Incredibly, the family's flu experience repeated itself the following year, when the shot didn't match the circulating strains - victims of the educated guessing that goes into the annual vaccine.

  Dr. John Treanor added, "it's just like, you know, weather prediction, where you get better at that every year, but you know, it's still not possible to always predict things exactly right."

  Traditionally, making flu vaccine requires millions of fertilized eggs.

  But now a new vaccine under study bypasses the birds.

  Dr. Treanor also said, "they use recombinant dna techniques. And they make dna cause the viral protein to be synthesized in a cell line, and then they purify that viral protein from the cell line."

  Flu-blok, as the vaccine is called, can be made faster than egg-based vaccines.

  That time savings could improve the flu shot recipe.

  "With a process that would be shorter, you can wait a little bit longer to make your decision. That's an advantage," said Dr. Treanor.

  The cell-culture system is also efficient, and "ups" the amount of flu protein in the shot.

  John treanor, m.d. "and there's some evidence that giving a higher dose stimulates a more vigorous immune response."

  For now, this doctor has her own strategy to battle the flu this year.

  Dr. Hay said, "we might do both the shots and the nasal vaccine, we'll see. There's no data it's any better, but we're going to try everything we can!"

  With hope the flu doesn't slide past their immune defenses again.

  Flu-blok is still awaiting FDA approval, so it isn't available yet.

  But it's produced in a controlled, lab culture system -- so it could offer an important improvement in flu vaccine production.

  As Doctor Treanor explained, if there's ever a pandemic bird flu, then birds are destroyed, egg supplies are limited, and ultimately, there's no way to make the flu vaccine.

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