And is disease history stored in a dustbin, for that matter?
Researchers at Dana-Farber may have found influenza’s weak spot, which could lead to a vaccine:
Yearly vaccination is currently needed because different strains of the virus circulate around the world regularly, owing to the germs’ rapidly changing genetic makeup. But the researchers reported yesterday that they had found one pocket of the virus that appears to remain static in multiple strains, making it an attractive target for a vaccine, as well as drugs.
And instead of fighting the primary part virus head on, you figure out a way to attack a portion that does not mutate in the weaker part and neutralize it:
Most vaccines work by revving up the body’s disease-fighting cells, helping them to recognize and rapidly neutralize invading germs. The researchers realized that the disease fighters generated by existing flu vaccines – which contain killed or weakened whole viruses – head straight toward the biggest target, the globular head. It is, in effect, a Trojan horse that prevents the body’s immune system from directing more of its firepower toward the stalk of the [virus], where the scientists found the pocket that was so static. That site contains machinery that lets the virus penetrate human cells.
A vaccine is a way off, but they say it should be possible to make a drug that helps the body create antibodies to fight off the flu sooner than that. Incredible work.