A new study finds that ethnicity influenced genetic variation in a key immune system gene, which produces antibodies that can ward off the influenza A virus.
The findings, which link ethnic background to influenza vaccine response, could have a significant impact on efforts to develop a universal flu vaccine that would provide protection against a wide variety of flu strains, according to Wayne Marasco, MD, PhD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and colleagues.
The study is the first to show genetic variation in the key infection-fighting IGHV1-69 gene associated with the ethnicity of vaccine recipients, they wrote in Scientific Reports.
The authors studied stored blood samples from people who received the HSN1flu virus vaccine in 2007, and found that the strength of the immune response to the vaccine varied significantly based on which version of the IGHV1-69 gene the recipients carried. They also found that the makeup and frequency of different versions of the IGHV1-69 gene varied by ethnic group.
“What we have actually done is identify a genetic linkage for this one gene, but it is probably the most important gene for making a universal influenza vaccine,” Marasco told MedPage Today in a telephone interview. He added that the research could change the understanding of how to achieve universal vaccine responsiveness.