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New Vaccine May Destroy Flu Permanently

T-Cell Attacking Flu CellT-Cell Attacking Flu CellIt's been more than 50 years since Jonas Salk created the first polio vaccine; thanks to his discovery, and Albert Sabin's a few years later, just a handful of polio cases are reported each year. But fifty years is a long time to wait for another watershed vaccine, so I checked my crystal ball to see what inventions were in progress in the biomedical field.

And what I saw was the eradication of... No, this can't be... Eradication of the flu! Not only the flu, but all strains of flu... and colds! And the vaccine is not too far off.

Dr. E. John Wherry is one of several biologists around the world who are working on promising permanent flu vaccines. Dr. Wherry and his team at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia are funded by a $10 million federal anti-bioterrorism grant and they are particularly eager, what with the threat of biological warfare looming, to get the vaccine ready -- a time still five to ten years out.

Dr. Wherry's methodology is to create super-strong T-cells, specific white cells in the thymus gland, that are particularly effective in attacking foreign cells. Wherry's part-live/part-dead flu vaccine (Sabin's method) has been successfully tested in mice. When the vaccine is given, the highly reproductive disease-fighting T-cells in the mice "memorize" the foreign virus and instinctively interpret newly introduced similar viruses as cells to be killed.

If Wherry does complete his human vaccine tests successfully, expectation is that the common cold, seasonal flu strains, and pandemic flus will no longer infect us. Not only that, but we will be immune to unknown destructive strains that bioterrorists may put together.

Current commonly administered flu vaccines are either seasonal -- made from viruses that are expected to be prevalent in a given year -- or they are targeted to prevent one type or another of pandemic flu, like Bird Flu or the Asian Flu. These vaccines are created from dead flu cells (Salk's method) of strains anticipated to be most virulent.

The seasonal vaccines are about 70 percent effective at keeping the flu at bay. Still, there are approximately 36,000 deaths from the flu each year, mostly among the elderly, whose cases of flu often lead to pneumonia. It is estimated that a pandemic flu, such as the Spanish Flu of 1918 - 1920 would cause the death of 62 million people world-wide today.

One basic problem with current vaccine efficacy is the time between development of the vaccine and the time the flu is most likely to hit. Seasonal vaccines are developed in the Spring and by Fall the viruses have mutated. The same mutation happens with pandemic flus, like the Spanish or Asian flus.

But the CDC recommends that people over 50, pregnant women, and children between the ages of 6 months to five years get the seasonal flu shot. In addition, anyone with a chronic illness of any kind should get the shot, as well as health-care workers and those who live in group homes.

Adapted From American Lung Association ChartAdapted From American Lung Association Chart

There are persons who are strongly advised by the CDC not to get a flu vaccine (see Who Should Not Be Vaccinated ). And there is controversy over the flu vaccine from fields of natural medicine who contend that the toxins in the vaccine preservatives and carriers, like mercury and aluminum, are potentially more harmful than the flu.

So, every season the arguments are made for and against getting vaccinated and the dilemma goes on: "Should I get the flu vaccine this year or not?" Those that do wait on lines at the supermarket or health clinic, pay their $25, get the shot, and go home to nurse their swollen arms. Those that don't, load up on zinc, echinachea, vitamin C, green tea and pray a lot.

Either way, we'll be counting the seasons until the next miracle vaccine rids us of the decision, the dread, and potential deaths a super-contagious flu can cause.

Myra Per-Lee
Featured Blogger

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Oct 19, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)


On behalf of the scientific community, please get a dictionary and look up the definitions of "virus" and "bacteria".  This is one reason why antiobiotic resistant superbugs are in the environment because members of the media (and the general public) do not understand the difference, especially when they are ill.

 After you have done that, please correct the mistakes in your article.  Thank you.

Oct 19, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)


Intelligence run rampid!  My general biology class spent 10 minutes picking out your lack of intelligence in your article. If you are going to be so bold as the reference the CDC please have enough brains to actually read their website.

Oct 20, 2007
by Myra Per-Lee

Anonymous NO 1

Yes, you are correct. I should have used the word "virus" instead of "bacteria" in that particular situation, because I made it confusing. However, T-Cells do respond to viruses and bacteria.

Any chance you might identify yourself on "behalf of the scientific community?"


Myra Per-Lee

Oct 19, 2007
by Myra Per-Lee

Anonymous No. 2

I'm sorry. The word "rampid" is not in my dictionary. What does that mean?

As far as I can tell, my CDC references are in order. If you found something that is contradicted by the CDC, please let me know.

Any chance you might identify yourself? Thanks.

Myra Per-Lee