The American biotechnology company Moderna said, on Wednesday, that it has begun human trials of a flu vaccine using messenger RNA technology, the same technology used in the COVID-19 vaccine.
These trials will include 180 adults to assess the safety and severity of the immune response resulting from the injection of this product, called mRNA-1010.
If successful, these trials could lead to a new generation of influenza vaccines with better performance.
Current flu vaccines use inactivated viruses that have lost their ability to cause infection, but are still able to stimulate an immune system response.
The strain used must be selected months in advance, and its effectiveness is between 40 and 60%.
Messenger RNA vaccines focus on a small part of the virus – for example, in the case of the coronavirus, the so-called “spike” protein. Strands of genetic instructions called messenger RNA are injected into the body, instructing the body to make that specific antigen, the “spike” of the coronavirus. This point, harmless in itself, is detected by the immune system, which produces antibodies. These antibodies will then be able to fight the virus in the event of a true infection.
Moderna hopes that this technology will allow for faster development of influenza vaccines. Different strains can also be targeted in a single injection.
The vaccine tested will target influenza A subtypes known as H1N1 and H3N2, as well as influenza B, Yamagata and Victoria strains.
The World Health Organization estimates that influenza is responsible for about 3 to 5 million cases of serious illness each year, and 290,000 to 650,000 deaths.