Jon Barron has talked repeatedly about how ineffective current flu vaccines actually are, but that doesn’t stop scientists from continually trying to make them better each year. And now they have made a discovery they believe may eventually lead to the development of a universal flu vaccine that could prevent anyone from catching the dreaded illness again.
A team of researchers from England and Switzerland have discovered a “super-antibody” called F16 that appears to disable all of the influenza A viruses they tested it against.1 There are two main groups of influenza A viruses, and this human antibody seems capable of fighting both of them.
It is the hemagglutinin protein within the flu virus that our antibodies attack to eliminate the virus from our bodies. The reason we do not build up immunity to the flu and become immune on our own and can become infected by the flu over and over again is because this protein is a master at evolving. It alters itself very quickly, so at any given time, there are numerous strains circulating. They fall into two main groupings and 16 assorted subtypes of influenza A. The scientists who identified F16 tested it against both groups of influenza A viruses in mice and ferrets and found that it conferred protection against infection to both.
This finding is sure to make pharmaceutical companies quite excited. As it stands now, the drug manufacturers have to create a new flu vaccine annually, based on predictions of which strains are most likely to be circulating that particular year. While that gives them plenty of business, it is also costly for them in the research and development area. And lots of people opt out of getting their flu shot because there is little evidence that they really work, especially if the manufacturers can’t pinpoint the right strains to fight off that year. If instead they could create a universal flu vaccine, in theory at least, they could inoculate everyone against all existing strains of the flu for years at a time, making it much more attractive for the masses to partake in and keeping the drug companies’ costs down once it is developed.
But the danger in a universal flu shot lies in the very fact that the influenza A virus is so adept at evolving. Just because scientists might be able to come up with a vaccine that can target and prevent the strains of flu that are most prevalent today certainly does not mean that the virus won’t continue to change, adapting to the environment and only getting stronger — until they eventually break through the defenses proffered by F16. That’s what they do. When the variants vulnerable to a vaccine are killed off, it leaves only the ones capable of resisting the vaccine to grow and improve themselves — just as we saw happen with bacteria after the overuse of antibiotics. That’s how superbugs are created. The very act of using a vaccine to fight them creates ever more virulent varieties of superbugs and causes them to flourish.
That’s not to say the new “super antibody” is doomed to eventual failure — only that there is a strong likelihood it will. And if that happens and science has thus unleashed a new strain of super flu upon the world, what do you do then?
Well, if that happens, your best bet is to keep your immune system optimized so that it can provide the best defense possible — and, at the first sign that you’ve contracted the flu, use known pathogen destroyers to crush any viruses that do start to flourish in your body during the incubation phase, when they are most vulnerable. You can identify the incubation phase at the point that you feel the first onset of sickness, before it hits full bore. Symptoms include a scratchy throat, unexplained muscle aches, slight fever, and/or the first hints of congestion. Natural antipathogens will do a better, safer job at eliminating the virus than any pharmaceutical antivirals such as Tamiflu can. Pathogen destroyers don’t build immune function as immune boosters do. Instead, they “free up” immune function by directly destroying pathogens in the body that would otherwise “occupy the attention” of your immune system. Some of the most powerful options are olive leaf extract, oil of wild mountain oregano, and garlic.
If you learn to pay attention to the signs of your body, you will know just when to pump down the pathogen destroyers. They can be the secret weapon you unleash to get through cold and flu season with your health intact. In most cases, if you hit the pathogen destroyers hard during the incubation phase, you’ll never actually come down with the flu. And if you “miss” the incubation phase and actually do come down with the flu, you can still make use of pathogen destroyers to shorten the duration of the illness. That’s better than nothing, but a whole lot less fun than not getting the flu at all.
1 Ekiert, Damian C.; Friesen, Robert H.E.; Bhabha, Gira; et al. “A Highly Conserved Neutralizing Epitope on Group 2 Influenza A Viruses.” Science. 7 July 2011. American Association for the Advancement of Science. 23 October 2011. <http://www.sciencemag.org/content/333/6044/843.abstract?sid=f929eab0-91e7-44a3-97cf-72b6f5be6686>.