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A new caterpillar vaccine could protect against influenza

A DNA-based vaccine grown in caterpillar cells could be a solution to better protect against infections. The vaccine called FluBlok is meant to protect against the flu but is unique on the market due to its modern technology which implies using caterpillar cells instead of chicken eggs but also due to its efficiency, according to NBC News

The traditional approach of flu vaccines involves the isolation and culturing of the flu virus in the lab, then its injection into chicken eggs to grow. The result is then purified, weakened or killed so it cannot make people sick and made into a vaccine. The virus mutates constantly, and often it changes after flu vaccines are already being given.

Because it takes months to make new flu vaccines, it’s too late once a flu season starts to re-formulate the vaccines.


Researchers have been working for years on ways to speed up the process and a company has been using pieces of influenza DNA grown in vats of caterpillar cells. Their vaccine has been on the market for years, and one advantage is that it’s much quicker to make.

A study conducted by scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that the unusual vaccine was 30% more efficient that the flu vaccine against influenza.

Given that the efficiency of flu vaccines is questioned the new vaccine offers new solutions.

“It’s clear that we need better vaccines — no doubt about it. And this may be a step in the right direction,” said Dr. John Treanor of the University of Rochester Medical Centre, a flu vaccine expert who was not involved in the study.

The latest data from the CDC found that between 140,000 and 700,000 suffering from flu neede hospital care and infections are responsible for the death of 12,000 to 56,000 people a year.

This past flu season, the vaccine was only about 42 percent effective in preventing illness severe enough to send a patient to the doctor’s office, CDC officials said. In the 2014-2015 flu season, the vaccine reduced the risk of serious flu by just 23 percent.

Alexa Stewart