Scientists from the University of Adelaide are in the process of developing a single vaccine for the world’s two most deadly respiratory diseases: influenza and pneumococcal disease. The researchers are hopeful that this single vaccine will overcome some of the limitations of current influenza and pneumococcal vaccines around the world.

The scientists have shown that, when combined with the new pneumococcal vaccine, the new influenza vaccine stimulates superior cross-protective immunity to different strains of the influenza virus. Moreover, it is known that influenza infection places people at a higher risk of developing severe pneumococcal infection, which has high rates of mortality. Previous research has already shown improved efficacy of the pneumococcal vaccine when given with the influenza vaccine.

“Our findings challenge an age-old immunological dogma about mixing viral and bacterial vaccines in a single injection,” says project co-leader Dr Alsharifi.

“Influenza virus and pneumococcus worked together to cause up to 100 million deaths during the great ‘Spanish flu’ pandemic of 1918-19,” added Professor James Paton, the project’s other co-leader.

Development of this new single vaccine is currently being carried out by two biotechnology companies associated with the University of Adelaide – Gamma Vaccines Pty Ltd and GPN Vaccines Pty Ltd.

Commentary

It is unclear when the single vaccine will be made available to the Australian public. Given the fact that it will need to go through the official vaccine approval process, it probably won’t be any time in the immediate future. Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) strictly test the safety, quality and efficacy of all vaccines before they can be made publicly available, a process that can take several years.2

Nevertheless, this is exciting for at least two reasons. First, the betterment of vaccines is always worthy of celebration (vaccines are already one of the greatest public health achievements of all time, but they can always be improved3). More specifically, the current flu vaccine has noteworthy limitations, such as its limited coverage and duration of protection.4 Any research that can successfully address these limitations is significant.

Secondly, reducing the number of injections that need to be given at any one time is definitely beneficial for everyone (especially for those with a fear of needles).

References

The University of Adelaide (online). News & Events: New single vaccination approach to killer diseases [accessed 21 May 2019]. Available from: URL link

  1. Australian Government Department of Health (online). Are vaccines safe? [accessed 21 May 2019]. Available from: URL link
  2. World Health Organization (online). The power of vaccines: still not fully utilized [accessed 22 May 2019]. Available from: URL link
  3. Australian Government Department of Health (online). Australian Immunisation Handbook: Influenza (flu) [accessed 22 May 2019]. Available from: URL link