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Flu Mutations

November 9, 2005

A new study explains why the flu vaccine can sometimes become less effective as the season wears on.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Outsmarting the flu vaccine. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Different strains of the flu virus can actually swap their genes mid-season, creating vaccine-resistant hybrids. That’s according to a five-year study of the flu viruses circulating in New York State, led by microbiologist Elodie Ghedin of The Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Maryland. She says that even a weak virus that wasn’t factored into the year’s vaccine can play a key role.

ELODIE GHEDIN (Institute for Genomic Research):
The minor one can recombine with the dominant one, to provide yet a third lineage that actually becomes dominant.

HIRSHON:
That could explain why vaccines sometimes become less effective mid-season. Ghedin says new technologies may help scientists develop more comprehensive vaccines, and to identify new strains as they emerge. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.