Flu vaccines are an important weapon against the influenza viruses that are the most common during the flu season. Research into the flu vaccines has only improved in recent times and has provided results that have had a great impact. Expanding on this extensive research, a new flu vaccine grown in plants just underwent tests in two large-scale clinical trials. The vaccine was made from proteins commonly found in viruses that it was meant to fight against. However, these proteins were made in native Australian tobacco relatives. These plants were genetically modified to make these proteins inside the themselves.
The trials produced some extraordinary results as the new vaccine came out to be comparable to the currently available ones in the market and just as safe. The clinical trials involved 23,000 people, and the sheer scale of these trials indicate that these results are unlikely to be overturned in the future. This marks the first large-scale test of a plant-based alternative that is probably safe and effective. The ones currently available in the market have to go through reformulation each year so that the viral strains of next year can be taken into account.
This is a mammoth undertaking. The need for such a process stems from the fact that influenza is an extremely adaptive virus. It is constantly changing the proteins that are used to identify the virus itself. This makes the virus hard to pin down. Currently, the influenza vaccines are made using virus particles grown and harvested from chicken eggs or lab grown cells. This is a long and arduous process. This new alternative is part of the effort to help ease the load by making plants produce the necessary proteins, which can later be used to develop the vaccines.
The new vaccine could help us overcome a lot of the shortcomings of the traditional ones. Phase 1 trials were done on 10,100 adults from Asia, Europe, and North America. The subjects came from varying backgrounds. The results of the first trial were meant to show that the vaccine could prevent 70 percent of people from developing flu-like symptoms. However, the actual results were not as ambitious. The actual results indicated that only a third of the subjects were protected from flu-like symptoms. These results, however, were on par with the commercial alternatives that were available for that season.
This means that even if it is not able to perform as well as it was meant to, it can still serve as a viable replacement for the currently available alternatives. Hopefully, the introduction of these plant-based solutions helps in the future development of other medicines.