Although no serious health-related events were reported in clinical trials, the new vaccine will continue to undergo safety evaluations each year, says Kistner. The vaccine is expected to be available to consumers in Europe as early as next year, he adds.
The new technique developed by Kistner and his associates uses a cell line originally derived from kidney cells of the African green monkey. The cell line has a demonstrated safety record in medical applications and is the only cell line currently licensed for the production of vaccines for human use, according to Kistner.
Some viruses are difficult to grow in eggs, which leads to delays in production. Growing the virus in the new cell culture provides manufacturers with the potential to grow such viruses more quickly than in eggs.
The new, cell-based vaccine has an additional benefit: It is produced without thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative that is used to kill bacteria. The chemical is often used in the production of egg-based vaccines, but U.S. and European officials are concerned that the preservative may present potential health risks, including possible allergic reactions.
The virus in a flu vaccine is chemically inactivated, but its presence stimulates the body to generate antibodies to fight off invading influenza strains. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) creates a new vaccine each year based on the likelihood that a new viral strain will occur.
Influenza is a respiratory infection that contributes to 20,000 deaths in the United States each year. At greatest risk are infants, the elderly and people with certain chronic conditions such as diabetes.
Flu season typically lasts from November to March, according to the CDC. The agency recommends that people get vaccinated six to eight weeks
Contact: Charmayne Marsh
American Chemical Society