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Thursday, 23 November 2017 08:24

Influenza vaccine and susceptibility with Stacey Schultz-Cherry - MTM 70

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Stacey Schultz-Cherry explains the selection process to choose the influenza virus strains to include in the annual influenza vaccine. Schultz-Cherry also discusses her research on the influence of obesity on the course of disease and vaccine efficacy.

Host: Julie Wolf Stacey Schultz Cherry

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Julie's biggest takeaways:

  • The WHO Collaborating Centers and National Influenza Centers around the world work with a humongous network of physicians, public health workers, and veterinarians to identify strains most likely to become part of the circulating influenza viruses.

  • An influenza strain that makes birds very sick is not necessarily a strain that will make people sick.

  • Predicting phenotype from genotype remains a challenge. Receptor binding to mammalian receptors, signatures in the genome that allow it to replicate in mammalian cells, and transmission between ferrets are the marks of potentially bad strains. Genetics can also tell you a little bit about the antiviral resistance characteristics of a strain.

  • Why can’t we incorporate all known influenza strains into a vaccine? It’s an issue of immunodominance - having enough antibodies against an infectious agent that it will be neutralized should it cause infection. Researchers don’t know how many HAs you can incorporate to generate proper immunity to each molecular version, and this is one area of influenza vaccine research.

  • Obesity appears to decrease the immune response to influenza, potentially affecting the ability to form memory response. This means the vaccine is less effective, the course of disease when infected is worse, and the likelihood of secondary bacterial infection is higher.

Featured Quotes (in order of appearance):

“People don’t appreciate how much work goes into this. The importance of surveillance - if we lose our surveillance, it’s going to be very difficult to know which strains to select for the vaccine, as well as diagnostics.”

“Part of the trick is not just predicting which viral strain to use but understanding which of those strains will grow to the highest efficiency without changing when we grow it in eggs to make the vaccine.”

“My bet is, whatever we find, it’s going to end up being 10 times more complicated...which is great for my post-docs, because there’s plenty of opportunities for them to find new things and build new labs, which is ultimately the most important thing you can do as a P.I.”

“I did wound repair during my Ph.D. . . . with my background in wound repair, I said ‘what is a virus but a great big wound’”

“When I was changing fields, my thesis committee asked me, ‘what are you doing? I was told it would take five years just to read the literature. You can’t change fields!’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I can.’” And I did!

“Whatever your decision is, you go for it you don’t have regrets, but you put 110% into whatever you decide to do.”

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Last modified on Thursday, 21 December 2017 14:02
Julie Wolf

Julie Wolf is the ASM Science Communications Specialist. She contributes to the ASM social media and blog network and hosts the Meet the Microbiologist podcast. She also runs workshops at ASM conferences to help scientists improve their own communication skills. Follow Julie on Twitter for more ASM and microbiology highlights at @JulieMarieWolf.

Julie earned her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, focusing on medical mycology and infectious disease. Outside of her work at ASM, she maintains a strong commitment to scientific education and teaches molecular biology at the community biolab, Genspace. She lives in beautiful New York City.