Colds and flu

12 December 2014

Genes may affect response to flu shot

According to researchers, people with a specific genetic profile are more likely to have detectable antibodies against the flu strain targeted by the seasonal flu vaccine.

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Researchers say they've pinpointed a gene that affects how much protection the flu vaccine gives a person.

This discovery could lead to a way to boost immune response to the flu vaccine, researchers suggest.

Read: Cold or flu?

They analysed blood samples from more than 200 people who'd had organ transplants.

IL-28B gene

The researchers found that versions of a gene called IL-28B influenced the strength of the immune response triggered by the flu vaccine.

Each person has two copies of this gene.

The T version of the gene is more common, while the G version is less common. Of the people in the study, most had two copies of the T version.

Read: Can flu raise the risk of fatal arterial tear?

Some people had one copy of the T version and one copy of the G version. A few had two copies of the G version, according to the researchers.

The blood of people with at least one copy of the G version of the gene were more likely to have detectable antibodies against the flu strain targeted by the seasonal flu vaccine, according to Adrian Egli, University of Basel in Switzerland, and colleagues.
    
The researchers then replicated their findings in almost 50 healthy volunteers.

More pronounced in transplant patients

They had a similar response, though the effect was more pronounced in transplant patients, according to the study authors.

They said their findings show that IL-28B plays an important role in the immune system's response to flu vaccination.

Read: US flu season off to slow start

That means it could offer a target to boost the effectiveness of seasonal flu vaccines, they said.

The study was published in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

Read More:

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Too late for new vaccine against mutated flu virus
Nearly half of Americans think flu shot can make you sick

Image: Influenza vaccine vial with syringe from Shutterstock.

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Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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