Researchers find potential flu strain cure-all
Tuesday, Sep 24th 2013

Now that the weather is growing colder, many medical professionals are urging best practices to guard against colds and influenza. As flu season nears, a major breakthrough in flu vaccines could potentially fight against all forms of the disease in the future. Experiments at the Imperial College London yielded significant results that could give insight to more effectively beating the flu and preventing lives from succumbing to the illness.

Major pandemics like the Spanish flu of 1918 and the 2009 swine flu caused numerous deaths due to the rarity of the strains. However, researchers at the college monitored more than 300 students and staff during the swine flu outbreak and identified a stronger presence of CD8 T cells in those that were only minimally affected by the illness, according to the Mother Nature Network. This study has given medical professionals a potential key to offer a universal vaccine that would be effective against all flu strains due to the CD8 T cell properties to naturally fight viruses. The active cell presence will significantly help further vaccine development and possibly mitigate the need to receive shots every year to combat the most recent strain.

"We already know how to stimulate the immune system to make CD8 T cells by vaccination. … Now that we know these T cells may protect, we can design a vaccine to prevent people getting symptoms and transmitting infection to others," Professor Ajit Lalvani told the news source. "This could curb seasonal flu annually and protect people against future pandemics."

Enforce vaccine protocols
Many people rely on vaccines throughout the year, however, flu season may draw the biggest need for immunizations due to the pervasiveness of the virus. Therefore, it's important to keep vaccines in the proper environment in order to give patients effective treatment. Here are a few best practices for handling vaccines:

  • Differentiate vaccine types
    There are live and inactivated vaccines, both of which have specific requirements for their optimal conditions. Using environmental control systems, medical professionals should keep the live vaccines in a continuously frozen state at 5 degrees Fahrenheit due to its heat sensitivity, according to the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Inactivated vaccines, on the other hand, are easily affected by excessive heat and cold, putting their optimal temperature at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Understanding these different vaccine types will help better protect them and keep them effective for patient treatments.
  • Observe storage procedures
    Cycling through vaccines by using the oldest supplies first will ensure that patients receive safe and effective products. Labeling improperly handled vaccines will help medical professionals identify them from the viable items and make them more efficient in observing proper disposal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vaccines should also be kept in a separate refrigeration unit from food and drinks. Storing these items with the medical products could contaminate them and risk patient safety.
  • Label everything
    Although it may be easy to tell one product from another, it's always best to apply labels to each vaccine. By posting descriptions of each item, doctors can identify when the vaccine was opened or reconstituted, allowing better establishment of what products should be used first. This will help medical providers ensure that no patient receives the wrong vaccine and create a system for utilizing the product while it is still viable.??

"For example, multidose vials of meningococcal vaccine should be discarded if not used within 35 days after reconstitution, even if the expiration date printed on the vial by the manufacturer has not passed," according to the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

With flu season getting closer, the vaccine breakthrough could potentially protect people from numerous strains of the disease for years to come. With good temperature monitoring systems, medical professionals can ensure that they are keeping the products in a safe environment and will promote improved patient treatment.