By: Todd Ackerman
In a retrospective study published this week, the new model did better at predicting the upcoming season’s circulating flu strains than government health agencies. The model can determine whether an incipient strain will become dominant in as soon as two weeks after the sequencing of the strain’s genetic code.
“This is a tool that could help the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the very difficult task of determining flu vaccines,” said Michael Deem, a Rice biochemist and the study’s co-author. “It could help them choose the best vaccine components.”
Selecting vaccine components is a difficult task because influenza viruses mutate so frequently.
Because strains used in the vaccine are selected six months before the start of flu season, based on what circulated the previous season, mismatches sometimes occur. As a result, vaccinated people aren’t protected against that season’s flu.