Science and Medicine

Key Step Closer to Universal Flu Vaccine

Our new finding is a key step in the development of a vaccine that can produce high levels of antibodies that protect against multiple flu strains

Researchers have discovered that the pandemic 2009 H1N1 vaccine can generate antibodies that protect against a variety of flu strains.

The discovery brings scientists closer to designing a “universal” influenza vaccine that reliably induces broadly cross-reactive antibodies at sufficiently high levels to protect against different influenza subtypes.

“Our new finding is a key step in the development of a vaccine that can produce high levels of antibodies that protect against multiple flu strains, including challenging mutations that have the potential for widespread illness and death,” says Rafi Ahmed, director of the Emory Vaccine Center at Emory University and senior author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers analyzed B cell (antibody) responses in 24 healthy adults immunized with the inactivated pandemic 2009 H1N1 vaccine. Vaccination caused a rapid increase in production of monoclonal antibodies that were capable of neutralizing multiple flu strains.

Three of the antibody types also were able to stick to the “stalk” region of the virus that does not change as much as other regions and thus could provide a basis for a vaccine with broader and more reliable protection.

Antibodies that are broadly reactive against multiple influenza strains are rarely seen in people after infection or vaccination with seasonal flu, the authors note. In the 24 vaccinated individuals in the current study, the majority of flu antibodies neutralized more than one influenza strain and also seemed to be the result of B-cell memory resulting from previous exposure to other flu strains.

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Western US, Asia View Lunar Eclipse

Millions of people across a narrow strip of eastern Asia and the Western U.S. turned their sights skyward for the annular eclipse.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — From a park near Albuquerque, to the top of Japan’s Mount Fuji, to the California coast the effect was dramatic: The moon nearly blotting out the sun creating a blazing “ring of fire” eclipse.

Millions of people across a narrow strip of eastern Asia and the Western U.S. turned their sights skyward for the annular eclipse, in which the moon passes in front of the sun leaving only a golden ring around its edges.

The rare lunar-solar alignment was visible in Asia early Monday before it moved across the Pacific—and the international dateline—where it was seen in parts of the western United States late Sunday afternoon.

People from Colorado, Oklahoma and as far away as Canada traveled to Albuquerque to enjoy one of the best vantage points at a park on the edge of the city.

Members of the crowd smiled and cheered and children yelled with excitement as the moon crossed the sun and the blazing halo of light began to form. Some watched the eclipse by placing their viewing glasses on the front of their smartphones.

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Americans Exercise More, But Not Enough

Americans exercise almost three times more than they did 40 years ago

Americans exercise almost three times more than they did 40 years ago, but still far less than the recommended four hours a week.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults aged 18 to 64 exercise moderately for 2.5 hours per week and engage in a vigorous activity, such as running and muscle strengthening, for an hour and fifteen minutes per week. The current average time Americans spend on exercise is two hours a week.

“The United States is the fattest country in the world,” says Geoffrey Godbey, professor emeritus of recreation, park and tourism management at Penn State. “The amount of exercise Americans get has become a major concern.”

Godbey and colleague John Robinson, professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, analyzed American Time Use Survey (ATUS) data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent national diary study of more than 100,000 respondents of all ages across the country to examine the amount of time Americans spend on sports and fitness activities.

The results are reported in the 2011 edition of Time Use in Australia and United States/Canada Bulletin, which will appear online this week.

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