Towards universal influenza vaccines?
Vaccination is the most cost-effective way to reduce the considerable disease burden of seasonal influenza. Although seasonal influenza vaccines are effective, their performance in the elderly and immunocompromised individuals would benefit from improvement. Major problems related to the development and production of pandemic influenza vaccines are response time and production capacity as well as vaccine efficacy and safety. Several improvements can be envisaged. Vaccine production technologies based on embryonated chicken eggs may be replaced by cell culture techniques. Reverse genetics techniques can speed up the generation of seed viruses and new mathematical modelling methods improve vaccine strain selection. Better understanding of the correlates of immune-mediated protection may lead to new vaccine targets besides the viral haemagglutinin, like the neuraminidase and M2 proteins. In addition, the role of cell-mediated immunity could be better exploited. New adjuvants have recently been shown to increase the breadth and the duration of influenza vaccine-induced protection. Other studies have shown that influenza vaccines based on different viral vector systems may also induce broad protection. It is to be expected that these developments may lead to more universal influenza vaccines that elicit broader and longer protection, and can be produced more efficiently.