New vaccine strategy offers lifelong protection for infants: study

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Researchers propose a revolutionary vaccine method for infants, potentially shielding them against multiple diseases.

NEW YORK, April 16: A groundbreaking study proposes a novel vaccine approach for infants that could provide lasting protection against a range of diseases with just one dose, even amidst virus mutations. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research sets the stage for what scientists call “universal vaccines.”

Traditional vaccines, such as those for the flu or COVID-19, often require regular updates to target evolving virus strains. However, this new method, tested on mice, utilizes small interfering RNA molecules (siRNA) to halt disease spread, offering a promising avenue for combating various illnesses.

Unlike conventional vaccines that rely on the body’s immune response, this approach harnesses a modified virus to trigger the production of siRNAs. These molecules effectively weaken the virus, rendering it susceptible to attack regardless of mutations. Researchers from the University of California, Riverside, are optimistic about its potential, particularly for infants with developing immune systems.

In experiments with baby mice, the vaccine-induced rapid and complete protection against a mouse disease called Nodamura, highlighting its broad effectiveness and safety. Lead study author Rong Hai envisions it as a universal solution adaptable to different viruses and suitable for diverse populations.

Infants, with their immature immune systems, often face challenges with conventional vaccines. While there are approved vaccines for some diseases, those for measles, COVID-19, and the flu typically cannot be administered to infants under six months. This vulnerable group remains at high risk of severe infections, emphasizing the urgent need for effective immunization strategies.

Researchers are exploring siRNA vaccines for COVID-19 and the flu, considering nasal spray delivery for its potential ease and efficacy, particularly in combating respiratory infections. Already, nasal spray flu vaccines have demonstrated effectiveness comparable to shots, paving the way for similar approaches in COVID-19 prevention.

As scientists continue to develop innovative vaccine solutions, the prospect of universal protection offers hope for a future where infectious diseases pose less threat to vulnerable populations, including infants.

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