Flu shot

New efforts to combat the spread of the flu are relying on genetic modification—the same controversial technology now widely used in much of our nation’s food supply.

Flublok, is the GMO flu vaccine developed by medical company Protein Sciences, which received FDA approval for use in adults between the ages of 18 and 49. It protects agains H1N1, H3N2, both A strains, along with one B strain of the influenza virus. Only a small amount of the vaccine is expected to be available for this season.

Flublok uses GMO technology to isolate a flu virus protein and combine it with a virus that affects a type of worm called army worm. Cells from the worms are then infected with the virus, producing a protein that is added to the vaccine. What’s considered unique about the vaccine is that it can be produced in a shorter period of time compared with other vaccines. It is also egg-free, unlike most vaccines, which use millions of eggs each year. Being egg-free also makes it safe for people with egg allergies. The company also boasts that the vaccine “does not contain any preservatives.”

The vaccine has not been proven to be any more effective than current vaccines, which typically only protect people 62 percent of the time. New flu vaccines are required each flu season because of the virus’s nature to change rapidly and quickly develop resistance to vaccines and medications. Researchers are already working on developing vaccines that can be administered once every 5 to 10 years and with increased effectiveness rates in the 80 to 90 percent range.

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Image: USACE