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1.  Characterization of Regional Influenza Seasonality Patterns in China and Implications for Vaccination Strategies: Spatio-Temporal Modeling of Surveillance Data 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(11):e1001552.
Cécile Viboud and colleagues describe epidemiological patterns of influenza incidence across China to support the design of a national vaccination program.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
The complexity of influenza seasonal patterns in the inter-tropical zone impedes the establishment of effective routine immunization programs. China is a climatologically and economically diverse country, which has yet to establish a national influenza vaccination program. Here we characterize the diversity of influenza seasonality in China and make recommendations to guide future vaccination programs.
Methods and Findings
We compiled weekly reports of laboratory-confirmed influenza A and B infections from sentinel hospitals in cities representing 30 Chinese provinces, 2005–2011, and data on population demographics, mobility patterns, socio-economic, and climate factors. We applied linear regression models with harmonic terms to estimate influenza seasonal characteristics, including the amplitude of annual and semi-annual periodicities, their ratio, and peak timing. Hierarchical Bayesian modeling and hierarchical clustering were used to identify predictors of influenza seasonal characteristics and define epidemiologically-relevant regions. The annual periodicity of influenza A epidemics increased with latitude (mean amplitude of annual cycle standardized by mean incidence, 140% [95% CI 128%–151%] in the north versus 37% [95% CI 27%–47%] in the south, p<0.0001). Epidemics peaked in January–February in Northern China (latitude ≥33°N) and April–June in southernmost regions (latitude <27°N). Provinces at intermediate latitudes experienced dominant semi-annual influenza A periodicity with peaks in January–February and June–August (periodicity ratio >0.6 in provinces located within 27.4°N–31.3°N, slope of latitudinal gradient with latitude −0.016 [95% CI −0.025 to −0.008], p<0.001). In contrast, influenza B activity predominated in colder months throughout most of China. Climate factors were the strongest predictors of influenza seasonality, including minimum temperature, hours of sunshine, and maximum rainfall. Our main study limitations include a short surveillance period and sparse influenza sampling in some of the southern provinces.
Conclusions
Regional-specific influenza vaccination strategies would be optimal in China; in particular, annual campaigns should be initiated 4–6 months apart in Northern and Southern China. Influenza surveillance should be strengthened in mid-latitude provinces, given the complexity of seasonal patterns in this region. More broadly, our findings are consistent with the role of climatic factors on influenza transmission dynamics.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, millions of people worldwide catch influenza, a viral disease of the airways. Most infected individuals recover quickly but seasonal influenza outbreaks (epidemics) kill about half a million people annually. These epidemics occur because antigenic drift—frequent small changes in the viral proteins to which the immune system responds—means that an immune response produced one year provides only partial protection against influenza the next year. Annual vaccination with a mixture of killed influenza viruses of the major circulating strains boosts this natural immunity and greatly reduces the risk of catching influenza. Consequently, many countries run seasonal influenza vaccination programs. Because the immune response induced by vaccination decays within 4–8 months of vaccination and because of antigenic drift, it is important that these programs are initiated only a few weeks before the onset of local influenza activity. Thus, vaccination starts in early autumn in temperate zones (regions of the world that have a mild climate, part way between a tropical and a polar climate), because seasonal influenza outbreaks occur in the winter months when low humidity and low temperatures favor the transmission of the influenza virus.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unlike temperate regions, seasonal influenza patterns are very diverse in tropical countries, which lie between latitudes 23.5°N and 23.5°S, and in the subtropical countries slightly north and south of these latitudes. In some of these countries, there is year-round influenza activity, in others influenza epidemics occur annually or semi-annually (twice yearly). This complexity, which is perhaps driven by rainfall fluctuations, complicates the establishment of effective routine immunization programs in tropical and subtropical countries. Take China as an example. Before a national influenza vaccination program can be established in this large, climatologically diverse country, public-health experts need a clear picture of influenza seasonality across the country. Here, the researchers use spatio-temporal modeling of influenza surveillance data to characterize the seasonality of influenza A and B (the two types of influenza that usually cause epidemics) in China, to assess the role of putative drivers of seasonality, and to identify broad epidemiological regions (areas with specific patterns of disease) that could be used as a basis to optimize the timing of future Chinese vaccination programs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers collected together the weekly reports of laboratory-confirmed influenza prepared by the Chinese national sentinel hospital-based surveillance network between 2005 and 2011, data on population size and density, mobility patterns, and socio-economic factors, and daily meteorological data for the cities participating in the surveillance network. They then used various statistical modeling approaches to estimate influenza seasonal characteristics, to assess predictors of influenza seasonal characteristics, and to identify epidemiologically relevant regions. These analyses indicate that, over the study period, northern provinces (latitudes greater than 33°N) experienced winter epidemics of influenza A in January–February, southern provinces (latitudes less than 27°N) experienced peak viral activity in the spring (April–June), and provinces at intermediate latitudes experienced semi-annual epidemic cycles with infection peaks in January–February and June–August. By contrast, influenza B activity predominated in the colder months throughout China. The researchers also report that minimum temperatures, hours of sunshine, and maximum rainfall were the strongest predictors of influenza seasonality.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that influenza seasonality in China varies between regions and between influenza virus types and suggest that, as in other settings, some of these variations might be associated with specific climatic factors. The accuracy of these findings is limited by the short surveillance period, by sparse surveillance data from some southern and mid-latitude provinces, and by some aspects of the modeling approach used in the study. Further surveillance studies need to be undertaken to confirm influenza seasonality patterns in China. Overall, these findings suggest that, to optimize routine influenza vaccination in China, it will be necessary to stagger the timing of vaccination over three broad geographical regions. More generally, given that there is growing interest in rolling out national influenza immunization programs in low- and middle-income countries, these findings highlight the importance of ensuring that vaccination strategies are optimized by taking into account local disease patterns.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001552.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Steven Riley
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information for patients about seasonal influenza and about influenza vaccination
The World Health Organization provides information on seasonal influenza (in several languages) and on influenza surveillance and monitoring
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information for patients and health professionals on all aspects of seasonal influenza, including information about vaccination; its website contains a short video about personal experiences of influenza.
Flu.gov, a US government website, provides access to information on seasonal influenza and vaccination
Information about the Chinese National Influenza Center, which is part of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention: and which runs influenza surveillance in China, is available (in English and Chinese)
MedlinePlus has links to further information about influenza and about vaccination (in English and Spanish)
A recent PLOS Pathogens Research Article by James D. Tamerius et al. investigates environmental predictors of seasonal influenza epidemics across temperate and tropical climates
A study published in PLOS ONE by Wyller Alencar de Mello et al. indicates that Brazil, like China, requires staggered timing of vaccination from Northern to Southern states to account for different timings of influenza activity.
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001552
PMCID: PMC3864611  PMID: 24348203
2.  Assessing Optimal Target Populations for Influenza Vaccination Programmes: An Evidence Synthesis and Modelling Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(10):e1001527.
Marc Baguelin and colleagues use virological, clinical, epidemiological, and behavioral data to estimate how policies for influenza vaccination programs may be optimized in England and Wales.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Influenza vaccine policies that maximise health benefit through efficient use of limited resources are needed. Generally, influenza vaccination programmes have targeted individuals 65 y and over and those at risk, according to World Health Organization recommendations. We developed methods to synthesise the multiplicity of surveillance datasets in order to evaluate how changing target populations in the seasonal vaccination programme would affect infection rate and mortality.
Methods and Findings
Using a contemporary evidence-synthesis approach, we use virological, clinical, epidemiological, and behavioural data to develop an age- and risk-stratified transmission model that reproduces the strain-specific behaviour of influenza over 14 seasons in England and Wales, having accounted for the vaccination uptake over this period. We estimate the reduction in infections and deaths achieved by the historical programme compared with no vaccination, and the reduction had different policies been in place over the period. We find that the current programme has averted 0.39 (95% credible interval 0.34–0.45) infections per dose of vaccine and 1.74 (1.16–3.02) deaths per 1,000 doses. Targeting transmitters by extending the current programme to 5–16-y-old children would increase the efficiency of the total programme, resulting in an overall reduction of 0.70 (0.52–0.81) infections per dose and 1.95 (1.28–3.39) deaths per 1,000 doses. In comparison, choosing the next group most at risk (50–64-y-olds) would prevent only 0.43 (0.35–0.52) infections per dose and 1.77 (1.15–3.14) deaths per 1,000 doses.
Conclusions
This study proposes a framework to integrate influenza surveillance data into transmission models. Application to data from England and Wales confirms the role of children as key infection spreaders. The most efficient use of vaccine to reduce overall influenza morbidity and mortality is thus to target children in addition to older adults.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every winter, millions of people catch influenza, a viral infection of the airways. Most infected individuals recover quickly, but seasonal influenza outbreaks (epidemics) kill about half a million people annually. In countries with advanced health systems, these deaths occur mainly among elderly people and among individuals with long-term illnesses such as asthma and heart disease that increase the risk of complications occurring after influenza virus infection. Epidemics of influenza occur because small but frequent changes in the influenza virus mean that an immune response produced one year through infection provides only partial protection against influenza the following year. Annual immunization with a vaccine that contains killed influenza viruses of the major circulating strains can greatly reduce a person's risk of catching influenza by preparing the immune system to respond quickly when challenged by a live influenza virus. Consequently, many countries run seasonal influenza vaccination programs that, in line with World Health Organization recommendations, target individuals 65 years old and older and people in high-risk groups.
Why Was This Study Done?
Is this approach the best use of available resources? Might, for example, vaccination of children—the main transmitters of influenza—provide more benefit to the whole population than vaccination of elderly people? Vaccination of children would not directly prevent as many influenza-related deaths as vaccination of elderly people, but it might indirectly prevent deaths in elderly adults by inducing herd immunity—vaccination of a large part of a population can protect unvaccinated members of the population by reducing the chances of an infection spreading. Policy makers need to know whether a change to an influenza vaccination program is likely to provide additional population benefits before altering the program. In this evidence synthesis and modeling study, the researchers combine (synthesize) longitudinal influenza surveillance datasets (data collected over time) from England and Wales, develop a mathematical model for influenza transmission based on these data using a Bayesian statistical approach, and use the model to evaluate the impact on influenza infections and deaths of changes to the seasonal influenza vaccination program in England and Wales.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed an influenza transmission model using clinical data on influenza-like illness consultations collected in a primary care surveillance scheme for each week of 14 influenza seasons in England and Wales, virological information on respiratory viruses detected in a subset of patients presenting with clinically suspected influenza, and data on vaccination coverage in the whole population (epidemiological data). They also incorporated data on social contacts (behavioral data) and on immunity to influenza viruses in the population (seroepidemiological data) into their model. To estimate the impact of potential changes to the current vaccination strategy in England and Wales, the researchers used their model, which replicated the patterns of disease observed in the surveillance data, to run simulated epidemics for each influenza season and for three strains of influenza virus under various vaccination scenarios. Compared to no vaccination, the current program (vaccination of people 65 years old and older and people in high-risk groups) averted 0.39 infections per dose of vaccine and 1.74 deaths per 1,000 doses. Notably, the model predicted that extension of the program to target 5–16-year-old children would increase the efficiency of the program and would avert 0.70 infections per dose and 1.95 deaths per 1,000 doses.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The finding that the transmission model developed by the researchers closely fit the available surveillance data suggests that the model should be able to predict what would have happened in England and Wales over the study period if an alternative vaccination regimen had been in place. The accuracy of such predictions may be limited, however, because the vaccination model is based on a series of simplifying assumptions. Importantly, given that influenza vaccination for children is being rolled out in England and Wales from September 2013, the model confirms that children are key spreaders of influenza and suggests that a vaccination program targeting children will reduce influenza infections and potentially influenza deaths in the whole population. More generally, the findings of this study support wider adoption of national vaccination strategies designed to block influenza transmission and to target those individuals most at risk from the complications of influenza infection.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371.journal.pmed.1001527.
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information for patients about seasonal influenza and about vaccination; Public Health England (formerly the Health Protection Agency) provides information on influenza surveillance in the UK, including information about the primary care surveillance database used in this study
The World Health Organization provides information on seasonal influenza (in several languages)
The European Influenzanet is a system to monitor the activity of influenza-like illness with the aid of volunteers via the Internet
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information for patients and health professionals on all aspects of seasonal influenza, including information about vaccination and about the US influenza surveillance system; its website contains a short video about personal experiences of influenza
Flu.gov, a US government website, provides access to information on seasonal influenza and vaccination
MedlinePlus has links to further information about influenza and about immunization (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001527
PMCID: PMC3793005  PMID: 24115913
3.  The Effects of Influenza Vaccination of Health Care Workers in Nursing Homes: Insights from a Mathematical Model 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(10):e200.
Background
Annual influenza vaccination of institutional health care workers (HCWs) is advised in most Western countries, but adherence to this recommendation is generally low. Although protective effects of this intervention for nursing home patients have been demonstrated in some clinical trials, the exact relationship between increased vaccine uptake among HCWs and protection of patients remains unknown owing to variations between study designs, settings, intensity of influenza seasons, and failure to control all effect modifiers. Therefore, we use a mathematical model to estimate the effects of HCW vaccination in different scenarios and to identify a herd immunity threshold in a nursing home department.
Methods and Findings
We use a stochastic individual-based model with discrete time intervals to simulate influenza virus transmission in a 30-bed long-term care nursing home department. We simulate different levels of HCW vaccine uptake and study the effect on influenza virus attack rates among patients for different institutional and seasonal scenarios. Our model reveals a robust linear relationship between the number of HCWs vaccinated and the expected number of influenza virus infections among patients. In a realistic scenario, approximately 60% of influenza virus infections among patients can be prevented when the HCW vaccination rate increases from 0 to 1. A threshold for herd immunity is not detected. Due to stochastic variations, the differences in patient attack rates between departments are high and large outbreaks can occur for every level of HCW vaccine uptake.
Conclusions
The absence of herd immunity in nursing homes implies that vaccination of every additional HCW protects an additional fraction of patients. Because of large stochastic variations, results of small-sized clinical trials on the effects of HCW vaccination should be interpreted with great care. Moreover, the large variations in attack rates should be taken into account when designing future studies.
Using a mathematical model to simulate influenza transmission in nursing homes, Carline van den Dool and colleagues find that each additional staff member vaccinated further reduces the risk to patients.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Every winter, millions of people catch influenza, a contagious viral disease of the nose, throat, and airways. Most people recover completely from influenza within a week or two but some develop life-threatening complications such as bacterial pneumonia. As a result, influenza outbreaks kill about half a million people—mainly infants, elderly people, and chronically ill individuals—each year. To minimize influenza-related deaths, the World Health Organization recommends that vulnerable people be vaccinated against influenza every autumn. Annual vaccination is necessary because flu viruses continually make small changes to the viral proteins (antigens) that the immune system recognizes. This means that an immune response produced one year provides only partial protection against influenza the next year. To provide maximum protection against influenza, each year's vaccine contains disabled versions of the major circulating strains of influenza viruses.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most Western countries also recommend annual flu vaccination for health care workers (HCWs) in hospitals and other institutions to reduce the transmission of influenza to vulnerable patients. However, many HCWs don't get a regular flu shot, so should efforts be made to increase their rate of vaccine uptake? To answer this question, public-health experts need to know more about the relationship between vaccine uptake among HCWs and patient protection. In particular, they need to know whether a high rate of vaccine uptake by HCWs will provide “herd immunity.” Herd immunity occurs because, when a sufficient fraction of a population is immune to a disease that passes from person to person, infected people rarely come into contact with susceptible people, which means that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people are protected from the disease. In this study, the researchers develop a mathematical model to investigate the relationship between vaccine uptake among HCWs and patient protection in a nursing home department.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
To predict influenza virus attack rates (the number of patient infections divided by the number of patients in a nursing home department during an influenza season) at different levels of HCW vaccine uptake, the researchers develop a stochastic transmission model to simulate epidemics on a computer. This model predicts that as the HCW vaccination rate increases from 0 (no HCWs vaccinated) to 1 (all the HCWs vaccinated), the expected average influenza virus attack rate decreases at a constant rate. In the researchers' baseline scenario—a nursing home department with 30 beds where patients come into contact with other patients, HCWs, and visitors—the model predicts that about 60% of the patients who would have been infected if no HCWs had been vaccinated are protected when all the HCWs are vaccinated, and that seven HCWs would have to be vaccinated to protect one patient. This last figure does not change with increasing vaccine uptake, which indicates that there is no level of HCW vaccination that completely stops the spread of influenza among the patients; that is, there is no herd immunity. Finally, the researchers show that large influenza outbreaks can happen by chance at every level of HCW vaccine uptake.
What Do These Findings Mean?
As with all mathematical models, the accuracy of these predictions may depend on the specific assumptions built into the model. Therefore the researchers verified that their findings hold for a wide range of plausible assumptions. These findings have two important practical implications. First, the direct relationship between HCW vaccination and patient protection and the lack of any herd immunity suggest that any increase in HCW vaccine uptake will be beneficial to patients in nursing homes. That is, increasing the HCW vaccination rate from 80% to 90% is likely to be as important as increasing it from 10% to 20%. Second, even 100% HCW vaccination cannot guarantee that influenza outbreaks will not occasionally occur in nursing homes. Because of the large variation in attack rates, the results of small clinical trials on the effects of HCW vaccination may be inaccurate and future studies will need to be very large if they are to provide reliable estimates of the amount of protection that HCW vaccination provides to vulnerable patients.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050200.
Read the related PLoSMedicine Perspective by Cécile Viboud and Mark Miller
A related PLoSMedicine Research Article by Jeffrey Kwong and colleagues is also available
The World Health Organization provides information on influenza and on influenza vaccines (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information for patients and professionals on all aspects of influenza (in English and Spanish)
The UK Health Protection Agency also provides information on influenza
MedlinePlus provides a list of links to other information about influenza (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service provides information about herd immunity, including a simple explanatory animation
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control provides an overview on the types of influenza
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050200
PMCID: PMC2573905  PMID: 18959470
4.  The Effect of Universal Influenza Immunization on Mortality and Health Care Use 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(10):e211.
Background
In 2000, Ontario, Canada, initiated a universal influenza immunization program (UIIP) to provide free influenza vaccines for the entire population aged 6 mo or older. Influenza immunization increased more rapidly in younger age groups in Ontario compared to other Canadian provinces, which all maintained targeted immunization programs. We evaluated the effect of Ontario's UIIP on influenza-associated mortality, hospitalizations, emergency department (ED) use, and visits to doctors' offices.
Methods and Findings
Mortality and hospitalization data from 1997 to 2004 for all ten Canadian provinces were obtained from national datasets. Physician billing claims for visits to EDs and doctors' offices were obtained from provincial administrative datasets for four provinces with comprehensive data. Since outcomes coded as influenza are known to underestimate the true burden of influenza, we studied more broadly defined conditions. Hospitalizations, ED use, doctors' office visits for pneumonia and influenza, and all-cause mortality from 1997 to 2004 were modelled using Poisson regression, controlling for age, sex, province, influenza surveillance data, and temporal trends, and used to estimate the expected baseline outcome rates in the absence of influenza activity. The primary outcome was then defined as influenza-associated events, or the difference between the observed events and the expected baseline events. Changes in influenza-associated outcome rates before and after UIIP introduction in Ontario were compared to the corresponding changes in other provinces. After UIIP introduction, influenza-associated mortality decreased more in Ontario (relative rate [RR] = 0.26) than in other provinces (RR = 0.43) (ratio of RRs = 0.61, p = 0.002). Similar differences between Ontario and other provinces were observed for influenza-associated hospitalizations (RR = 0.25 versus 0.44, ratio of RRs = 0.58, p < 0.001), ED use (RR = 0.31 versus 0.69, ratio of RRs = 0.45, p < 0.001), and doctors' office visits (RR = 0.21 versus 0.52, ratio of RRs = 0.41, p < 0.001). Sensitivity analyses were carried out to assess consistency, specificity, and the presence of a dose-response relationship. Limitations of this study include the ecological study design, the nonspecific outcomes, difficulty in modeling baseline events, data quality and availability, and the inability to control for potentially important confounders.
Conclusions
Compared to targeted programs in other provinces, introduction of universal vaccination in Ontario in 2000 was associated with relative reductions in influenza-associated mortality and health care use. The results of this large-scale natural experiment suggest that universal vaccination may be an effective public health measure for reducing the annual burden of influenza.
Comparing influenza-related mortality and health care use between Ontario and other Canadian provinces, Jeffrey Kwong and colleagues find evidence that Ontario's universal vaccination program has reduced the burden of influenza.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Seasonal outbreaks (epidemics) of influenza—a viral disease of the nose, throat, and airways—affect millions of people and kill about 500,000 individuals every year. These epidemics occur because of “antigenic drift”: small but frequent changes in the viral proteins to which the human immune system responds mean that an immune response produced one year by exposure to an influenza virus provides only partial protection against influenza the next year. Immunization can boost this natural immunity and reduce a person's chances of catching influenza. That is, an injection of killed influenza viruses can be used to prime the immune system so that it responds quickly and efficiently when exposed to live virus. However, because of antigenic drift, for influenza immunization to be effective, it has to be repeated annually with a vaccine that contains the major circulating strains of the influenza virus.
Why Was This Study Done?
Public-health organizations recommend targeted vaccination programs, so that elderly people, infants, and chronically ill individuals—the people most likely to die from pneumonia and other complications of influenza—receive annual influenza vaccination. Some experts argue, however, that universal vaccination might provide populations with better protection from influenza, both directly by increasing the number of vaccinated people and indirectly through “herd immunity,” which occurs when a high proportion of the population is immune to an infectious disease, so that even unvaccinated people are unlikely to become infected (because infected people rarely come into contact with susceptible people). In this study, the researchers compare the effects of the world's first free universal influenza immunization program (UIIP), which started in 2000 in the Canadian province of Ontario, on influenza-associated deaths and health care use with the effects of targeted vaccine programs on the same outcomes elsewhere in Canada.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Using national records, the researchers collected data on influenza vaccination, on all deaths, and on hospitalizations for pneumonia and influenza in all Canadian provinces between 1997 and 2004. They also collected data on emergency department and doctors' office visits for pneumonia and influenza for Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and Manitoba. They then used a mathematical model to estimate the baseline rates for these outcomes in the absence of influenza activity, and from these calculated weekly rates for deaths and health care use specifically resulting from influenza. In 1996–1997, 18% of the population was vaccinated against influenza in Ontario whereas in the other provinces combined the vaccination rate was 13%. On average, since 2000—the year in which UIIP was introduced in Ontario—vaccination rates have risen to 38% and 24% in Ontario and the other provinces, respectively. Since the introduction of UIIP, the researchers report, influenza-associated deaths have decreased by 74% in Ontario but by only 57% in the other provinces combined. Influenza-associated use of health care facilities has also decreased more in Ontario than in the other provinces over the same period.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings are limited by some aspects of the study design. For example, they depend on the accuracy of the assumptions made when calculating events due specifically to influenza, and on the availability and accuracy of vaccination and clinical outcome data. In addition, it is possible that influenza-associated deaths and health care use may have decreased more in Ontario than in the other Canadian provinces because of some unrecognized health care changes specific to Ontario but unrelated to the introduction of universal influenza vaccination. Nevertheless, these findings indicate that, compared to the targeted vaccination programs in the other Canadian provinces, the Ontarian UIIP is associated with reductions in influenza-associated deaths and health care use, particularly in people younger than 65 years old. This effect is seen at a level of vaccination unlikely to produce herd immunity so might be more marked if the uptake of vaccination could be further increased. Thus, although it is possible that Canada is a special case, these findings suggest that universal influenza vaccination might be an effective way to reduce the global burden of influenza.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050211.
Read the related PLoSMedicine Perspective by Cécile Viboud and Mark Miller
A related PLoSMedicine Research Article by Carline van den Dool and colleagues is also available
The Ontario Ministry of Health provides information on its universal influenza immunization program (in English and French)
The World Health Organization provides information on influenza and on influenza vaccines (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information for patients and professionals on all aspects of influenza (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides a list of links to other information about influenza (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service provides information about the science of immunization, including a simple explanatory animation of immunity
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050211
PMCID: PMC2573914  PMID: 18959473
5.  Association between the 2008–09 Seasonal Influenza Vaccine and Pandemic H1N1 Illness during Spring–Summer 2009: Four Observational Studies from Canada 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(4):e1000258.
In three case-control studies and a household transmission cohort, Danuta Skowronski and colleagues find an association between prior seasonal flu vaccination and increased risk of 2009 pandemic H1N1 flu.
Background
In late spring 2009, concern was raised in Canada that prior vaccination with the 2008–09 trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine (TIV) was associated with increased risk of pandemic influenza A (H1N1) (pH1N1) illness. Several epidemiologic investigations were conducted through the summer to assess this putative association.
Methods and Findings
Studies included: (1) test-negative case-control design based on Canada's sentinel vaccine effectiveness monitoring system in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec; (2) conventional case-control design using population controls in Quebec; (3) test-negative case-control design in Ontario; and (4) prospective household transmission (cohort) study in Quebec. Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios for TIV effect on community- or hospital-based laboratory-confirmed seasonal or pH1N1 influenza cases compared to controls with restriction, stratification, and adjustment for covariates including combinations of age, sex, comorbidity, timeliness of medical visit, prior physician visits, and/or health care worker (HCW) status. For the prospective study risk ratios were computed. Based on the sentinel study of 672 cases and 857 controls, 2008–09 TIV was associated with statistically significant protection against seasonal influenza (odds ratio 0.44, 95% CI 0.33–0.59). In contrast, estimates from the sentinel and three other observational studies, involving a total of 1,226 laboratory-confirmed pH1N1 cases and 1,505 controls, indicated that prior receipt of 2008–09 TIV was associated with increased risk of medically attended pH1N1 illness during the spring–summer 2009, with estimated risk or odds ratios ranging from 1.4 to 2.5. Risk of pH1N1 hospitalization was not further increased among vaccinated people when comparing hospitalized to community cases.
Conclusions
Prior receipt of 2008–09 TIV was associated with increased risk of medically attended pH1N1 illness during the spring–summer 2009 in Canada. The occurrence of bias (selection, information) or confounding cannot be ruled out. Further experimental and epidemiological assessment is warranted. Possible biological mechanisms and immunoepidemiologic implications are considered.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every winter, millions of people catch influenza—a viral infection of the airways—and hundreds of thousands of people die as a result. These seasonal epidemics occur because small but frequent changes in the influenza virus mean that an immune response produced one year through infection or vaccination provides only partial protection against influenza the next year. Annual vaccination with killed influenza viruses of the major circulating strains can greatly reduce a person's risk of catching influenza. Consequently, many countries run seasonal influenza vaccination programs. In most of Canada, vaccination with a mixture of three inactivated viruses (a trivalent inactivated vaccine or TIV) is provided free to children aged 6–23 months, to elderly people, to people with long-term conditions that increase their risk of influenza-related complications, and those who provide care for them; in Ontario, free vaccination is offered to everyone older than 6 months.
In addition, influenza viruses occasionally emerge that are very different and to which human populations have virtually no immunity. These viruses can start global epidemics (pandemics) that can kill millions of people. Experts have been warning for some time that an influenza pandemic is long overdue and, in March 2009, the first cases of influenza caused by a new virus called pandemic A/H1N1 2009 (pH1N1; swine flu) occurred in Mexico. The virus spread rapidly and on 11 June 2009, the World Health Organization declared that a global pandemic of pH1N1 influenza was underway. By the end of February 2010, more than 16,000 people around the world had died from pH1N1.
Why Was This Study Done?
During an investigation of a school outbreak of pH1N1 in the late spring 2009 in Canada, investigators noted that people with illness characterized by fever and coughing had been vaccinated against seasonal influenza more often than individuals without such illness. To assess whether this association between prior vaccination with seasonal 2008–09 TIV and subsequent pH1N1 illness was evident in other settings, researchers in Canada therefore conducted additional studies using different methods. In this paper, the researchers report the results of four additional studies conducted in Canada during the summer of 2009 to assess this possible association.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted four epidemiologic studies. Epidemiology is the study of the causes, distribution, and control of diseases in populations.
Three of the four studies were case-control studies in which the researchers assessed the frequency of prior vaccination with the 2008–09 TIV in people with pH1N1 influenza compared to the frequency among healthy members of the general population or among individuals who had an influenza-like illness but no sign of infection with an influenza virus. The researchers also did a household transmission study in which they collected information about vaccination with TIV among the additional cases of influenza that were identified in 47 households in which a case of laboratory-confirmed pH1N1 influenza had occurred. The first of the case-control studies, which was based on Canada's vaccine effectiveness monitoring system, showed that, as expected, the 2008–09 TIV provided protection against seasonal influenza. However, estimates from all four studies (which included about 1,200 laboratory-confirmed pH1N1 cases and 1,500 controls) showed that prior recipients of the 2008–09 TIV had approximately 1.4–2.5 times increased chances of developing pH1N1 illness that needed medical attention during the spring–summer of 2009 compared to people who had not received the TIV. Prior seasonal vaccination was not associated with an increase in the severity of pH1N1 illness, however. That is, it did not increase the risk of being hospitalized among those with pH1N1 illness.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Because all the investigations in this study are “observational,” the people who had been vaccinated might share another unknown characteristic that is actually responsible for increasing their risk of developing pH1N1 illness (“confounding”). Furthermore, the results reported in this study might have arisen by chance, although the consistency of results across the studies makes this unlikely. Thus, the finding of an association between prior receipt of 2008–09 TIV and an increased risk of pH1N1 illness is not conclusive and needs to be investigated further, particularly since some other observational studies conducted in other countries have reported that seasonal vaccination had no influence or may have been associated with reduced chances of pH1N1 illness. If the findings in the current study are real, however, they raise important questions about the biological interactions between seasonal and pandemic influenza strains and vaccines, and about the best way to prevent and control both types of influenza in future.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000258.
This article is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Cécile Viboud and Lone Simonsen
FightFlu.ca, a Canadian government Web site, provides access to information on pH1N1 influenza
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about influenza for patients and professionals, including specific information on H1N1 influenza
Flu.gov, a US government website, provides access to information on H1N1, avian and pandemic influenza
The World Health Organization provides information on seasonal influenza and has detailed information on pH1N1 influenza (in several languages)
The UK Health Protection Agency provides information on pandemic influenza and on pH1N1 influenza
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000258
PMCID: PMC2850386  PMID: 20386731
6.  Safety, efficacy, and immunogenicity of an inactivated influenza vaccine in healthy adults: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial over two influenza seasons 
Background
Seasonal influenza imposes a substantial personal morbidity and societal cost burden. Vaccination is the major strategy for influenza prevention; however, because antigenically drifted influenza A and B viruses circulate annually, influenza vaccines must be updated to provide protection against the predicted prevalent strains for the next influenza season. The aim of this study was to assess the efficacy, safety, reactogenicity, and immunogenicity of a trivalent inactivated split virion influenza vaccine (TIV) in healthy adults over two influenza seasons in the US.
Methods
The primary endpoint of this double-blind, randomized study was the average efficacy of TIV versus placebo for the prevention of vaccine-matched, culture-confirmed influenza (VMCCI) across the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 influenza seasons. Secondary endpoints included the prevention of laboratory-confirmed (defined by culture and/or serology) influenza, as well as safety, reactogenicity, immunogenicity, and consistency between three consecutive vaccine lots. Participants were assessed actively during both influenza seasons, and nasopharyngeal swabs were collected for viral culture from individuals with influenza-like illness. Blood specimens were obtained for serology one month after vaccination and at the end of each influenza season's surveillance period.
Results
Although the point estimate for efficacy in the prevention of all laboratory-confirmed influenza was 63.2% (97.5% confidence interval [CI] lower bound of 48.2%), the point estimate for the primary endpoint, efficacy of TIV against VMCCI across both influenza seasons, was 46.3% with a 97.5% CI lower bound of 9.8%. This did not satisfy the pre-specified success criterion of a one-sided 97.5% CI lower bound of >35% for vaccine efficacy. The VMCCI attack rates were very low overall at 0.6% and 1.2% in the TIV and placebo groups, respectively. Apart from a mismatch for influenza B virus lineage in 2005-2006, there was a good match between TIV and the circulating strains. TIV was highly immunogenic, and immune responses were consistent between three different TIV lots. The most common reactogenicity events and spontaneous adverse events were associated with the injection site, and were mild in severity.
Conclusions
Despite a good immune response, and an average efficacy over two influenza seasons against laboratory-confirmed influenza of 63.2%, the pre-specified target (lower one-sided 97.5% confidence bound for efficacy > 35%) for the primary efficacy endpoint, the prevention of VMCCI, was not met. However, the results should be interpreted with caution in view of the very low attack rates we observed at the study sites in the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007, which corresponded to relatively mild influenza seasons in the US. Overall, the results showed that TIV has an acceptable safety profile and offered clinical benefit that exceeded risk.
Trial registration
NCT00216242
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-71
PMCID: PMC2845585  PMID: 20236548
7.  Cross-Reactive Neuraminidase Antibodies Afford Partial Protection against H5N1 in Mice and Are Present in Unexposed Humans 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(2):e59.
Background
A pandemic H5N1 influenza outbreak would be facilitated by an absence of immunity to the avian-derived virus in the human population. Although this condition is likely in regard to hemagglutinin-mediated immunity, the neuraminidase (NA) of H5N1 viruses (avN1) and of endemic human H1N1 viruses (huN1) are classified in the same serotype. We hypothesized that an immune response to huN1 could mediate cross-protection against H5N1 influenza virus infection.
Methods and Findings
Mice were immunized against the NA of a contemporary human H1N1 strain by DNA vaccination. They were challenged with recombinant A/Puerto Rico/8/34 (PR8) viruses bearing huN1 (PR8-huN1) or avN1 (PR8-avN1) or with H5N1 virus A/Vietnam/1203/04. Additional naïve mice were injected with sera from vaccinated mice prior to H5N1 challenge. Also, serum specimens from humans were analyzed for reactivity with avN1. Immunization elicited a serum IgG response to huN1 and robust protection against the homologous challenge virus. Immunized mice were partially protected from lethal challenge with H5N1 virus or recombinant PR8-avN1. Sera transferred from immunized mice to naïve animals conferred similar protection against H5N1 mortality. Analysis of human sera showed that antibodies able to inhibit the sialidase activity of avN1 exist in some individuals.
Conclusions
These data reveal that humoral immunity elicited by huN1 can partially protect against H5N1 infection in a mammalian host. Our results suggest that a portion of the human population could have some degree of resistance to H5N1 influenza, with the possibility that this could be induced or enhanced through immunization with seasonal influenza vaccines.
Humoral immunity against endemic human H1N1 influenza viruses can partially protect mice against H5N1 challenge, raising the possibility that a portion of the human population could have some degree of resistance against avian flu.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Every winter, millions of people catch influenza—a viral infection of the airways. Most recover quickly but influenza can kill infants, elderly people, and chronically ill individuals. To minimize these deaths, the World Health Organization recommends that vulnerable people be vaccinated against influenza every autumn. Annual vaccination is necessary because flu viruses continually make small changes to the viral proteins (antigens) that the immune system recognizes. Each year's vaccine contains disabled versions of the circulating strains of influenza A type H1N1 and H3N2 viruses, and of influenza B virus. The H and N refer to the major influenza A antigens (hemagglutinin and neuraminidase), and the numbers refer to the type of each antigen; different H1N1 and H3N2 virus strains contain small variations in their respective hemagglutinin and neuraminidase type. Vaccines provide protection against seasonal influenza outbreaks, but sometimes flu viruses emerge that contain major antigenic changes, such as a different hemagglutinin type. These viruses can start pandemics (global outbreaks) because populations have little immunity to them. Many scientists believe that avian (bird) H5N1 influenza virus (which has caused about 250 confirmed cases of human flu and 150 deaths) could trigger the next human pandemic.
Why Was This Study Done?
Avian influenza H5N1 virus has not started a human pandemic yet because it cannot move easily between people. If it acquires this property, it could kill millions before an effective vaccine could be developed, so researchers are looking for other ways to provide protection against avian H5N1. One possibility is that an immune response to the human type 1 neuraminidase (huN1) in circulating H1N1 influenza virus strains and vaccines could provide some protection against avian H5N1 influenza virus, which contains the closely related avian type 1 neuraminidase (avN1). In this study, the researchers have investigated this possibility in mice and in a small human study.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers immunized mice with DNA encoding the huN1 present in a circulating H1N1 virus. They then examined the immune response of the mice to this huN1 and to avN1 from an avian H5N1 virus isolated from a human patient (A/Vietnam/1203/04). Most of the mice made antibodies (proteins that recognize antigens) against huN1; a few also made detectable levels of antibodies against avN1. All the vaccinated mice survived infection with a man-made flu virus containing huN1, and half also survived infection with low doses of a man-made virus containing avN1 or A/Vietnam/1203/04. To test whether the antibodies made by the vaccinated mice were responsible for this partial protection, the researchers collected serum (the liquid part of blood that contains the antibodies) from them and injected it into unvaccinated mice. Again, about half of the mice survived infection with the H5N1 virus, which indicates that the huN1-induced immunity against H5N1 is largely mediated by antibodies. Finally, the researchers tested serum samples from 38 human volunteers for their ability to inhibit neuraminidase from an H1N1 virus and two H5N1 viruses (antibodies to neuraminidase reduce viral replication and disease severity by inhibiting neuraminidase activity). Most of the sera inhibited the enzyme from the H1N1 virus; and seven also inhibited the enzyme from both H5N1 viruses.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that a vaccine containing huN1 induces the production of antibodies in mice that partly protect them against H5N1 infection. In addition, the human study suggests that some people may have some degree of resistance to H5N1 influenza because of exposure to H1N1 viruses or routine influenza vaccination. These results, while intriguing, don't show that there is actual protection, but it seems well worth doing additional work to address this question. The researchers also suggest that many more people might have been infected already with H5N1 but their strong H1N1 immunity meant they had only mild symptoms, and this hypothesis also deserves further investigation. Overall, these findings raise the possibility that seasonal influenza vaccination may provide some protection against pandemic H5N1. It is worth discussing whether, even while further studies are underway, seasonal vaccination should be increased, especially in areas where H5N1 is present in birds.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040059.
A related PLoS Medicine Perspective article by Laura Gillim-Ross and Kanta Subbarao is available
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about influenza for patients and professionals, including key facts about avian influenza and vaccination
US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease has a feature on seasonal, avian and pandemic flu
World Health Organization has fact sheets on influenza and influenza vaccines, and information on avian influenza
UK Health Protection Agency provides information on seasonal, avian, and pandemic influenza
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040059
PMCID: PMC1796909  PMID: 17298168
8.  Influenza Vaccination in Cancer Patients Undergoing Systemic Therapy 
BACKGROUND
Cancer patients often experience preventable infections, including influenza A and B. These infections can be a cause of significant morbidity and mortality. The increased risk of infection may be because of either cancer itself or treatment-induced immunosuppression.1 Influenza immunization has been shown to decrease the risk of influenza infection in patients with intact immunity.2 In cancer patients, active immunization has been shown to confer protective immunity against several infections at similar rates to healthy individuals, which has translated into decreased duration and severity of infection and potentially improved morbidity and mortality.3
OBJECTIVES
To assess the efficacy of influenza vaccination in stimulating immunological response in patients with cancer during chemotherapy compared to control groups.
To assess the efficacy of influenza vaccination in preventing confirmed influenza and influenza-like illness and/or stimulating immunological response in children with cancer treated with chemotherapy, compared to placebo, no intervention, or different dosage schedules.
To determine the adverse effects associated with influenza vaccination in patients with cancer.
SEARCH METHODS
We searched MEDLINE/PubMed database for articles published from 1964 to 2013 using the search terms “cancer,” “adult,” “influenza vaccination,” and “chemotherapy.”
SELECTION CRITERIA
We included studies based on systematic sampling with defined clinical criteria irrespective of the vaccination status of cancer patients. Studies measure the serological response or clinical response to compare between the study group and the control group. Studies assessed the inactivated influenza vaccines and live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) protective serological reaction and the clinical outcomes after vaccination.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS
Two independent authors assessed the methodological quality of included studies and extracted data.
MAIN RESULTS
We included 16 studies (total number of participants = 1,076). None of the included studies reported clinical outcomes. All included studies reported on influenza immunity and adverse reaction on vaccination. We included 6 solid tumor studies and 10 hematological studies. In 12 studies, the serological response to influenza vaccine was compared in patients receiving chemotherapy (n = 425) versus those not receiving chemotherapy (n = 376). In three studies, the serological responses to influenza vaccination in patients receiving chemotherapy are compared to that in healthy adult. Measures used to assess the serological responses included a four-fold rise increase in antibody titer development of hemagglutination inhibition (HI) titer >40, and pre- and post-vaccination geometric mean titers (GMTs). Immune responses in patients receiving chemotherapy were consistently weaker (four-fold rise of 17–52%) than in those who had completed chemotherapy (50–83%) and healthy patients (67–100%). Concerning adverse effects, oncology patients received influenza vaccine, and the side effects described were mild local reactions and low-grade fever. No life-threatening or persistent adverse effects were reported.
AUTHORS’ CONCLUSION
Patients with solid and some of hematological tumors are able to mount a serological response to influenza vaccine, but it remains unclear how much this response protects them from influenza infection or its complications. Meanwhile, influenza vaccine appears to be safe in these patients. While waiting results of randomized controlled trials to give us more details about the clinical benefits of the influenza vaccination, the clinicians should consider the currently proved benefits of influenza vaccination on management of the cancer patients undergoing systematic chemotherapy such as decrease in the duration and severity of the of the disease, and significant decrease in influenza-associated morbidity and mortality in these high-risk patients.3
doi:10.4137/CMO.S13774
PMCID: PMC4011725  PMID: 24855405
influenza vaccination; cancer patients; chemotherapy
9.  Estimates of Pandemic Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness in Europe, 2009–2010: Results of Influenza Monitoring Vaccine Effectiveness in Europe (I-MOVE) Multicentre Case-Control Study 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(1):e1000388.
Results from a European multicentre case-control study reported by Marta Valenciano and colleagues suggest good protection by the pandemic monovalent H1N1 vaccine against pH1N1 and no effect of the 2009–2010 seasonal influenza vaccine on H1N1.
Background
A multicentre case-control study based on sentinel practitioner surveillance networks from seven European countries was undertaken to estimate the effectiveness of 2009–2010 pandemic and seasonal influenza vaccines against medically attended influenza-like illness (ILI) laboratory-confirmed as pandemic influenza A (H1N1) (pH1N1).
Methods and Findings
Sentinel practitioners swabbed ILI patients using systematic sampling. We included in the study patients meeting the European ILI case definition with onset of symptoms >14 days after the start of national pandemic vaccination campaigns. We compared pH1N1 cases to influenza laboratory-negative controls. A valid vaccination corresponded to >14 days between receiving a dose of vaccine and symptom onset. We estimated pooled vaccine effectiveness (VE) as 1 minus the odds ratio with the study site as a fixed effect. Using logistic regression, we adjusted VE for potential confounding factors (age group, sex, month of onset, chronic diseases and related hospitalizations, smoking history, seasonal influenza vaccinations, practitioner visits in previous year). We conducted a complete case analysis excluding individuals with missing values and a multiple multivariate imputation to estimate missing values. The multivariate imputation (n = 2902) adjusted pandemic VE (PIVE) estimates were 71.9% (95% confidence interval [CI] 45.6–85.5) overall; 78.4% (95% CI 54.4–89.8) in patients <65 years; and 72.9% (95% CI 39.8–87.8) in individuals without chronic disease. The complete case (n = 1,502) adjusted PIVE were 66.0% (95% CI 23.9–84.8), 71.3% (95% CI 29.1–88.4), and 70.2% (95% CI 19.4–89.0), respectively. The adjusted PIVE was 66.0% (95% CI −69.9 to 93.2) if vaccinated 8–14 days before ILI onset. The adjusted 2009–2010 seasonal influenza VE was 9.9% (95% CI −65.2 to 50.9).
Conclusions
Our results suggest good protection of the pandemic monovalent vaccine against medically attended pH1N1 and no effect of the 2009–2010 seasonal influenza vaccine. However, the late availability of the pandemic vaccine and subsequent limited coverage with this vaccine hampered our ability to study vaccine benefits during the outbreak period. Future studies should include estimation of the effectiveness of the new trivalent vaccine in the upcoming 2010–2011 season, when vaccination will occur before the influenza season starts.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Following the World Health Organization's declaration of pandemic phase six in June 2009, manufacturers developed vaccines against pandemic influenza A 2009 (pH1N1). On the basis of the scientific opinion of the European Medicines Agency, the European Commission initially granted marketing authorization to three pandemic vaccines for use in European countries. During the autumn of 2009, most European countries included the 2009–2010 seasonal influenza vaccine and the pandemic vaccine in their influenza vaccination programs.
The Influenza Monitoring Vaccine Effectiveness in Europe network (established to monitor seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness) conducted seven case-control and three cohort studies in seven European countries in 2009–2010 to estimate the effectiveness of the pandemic and seasonal vaccines. Data from the seven pilot case-control studies were pooled to provide overall adjusted estimates of vaccine effectiveness.
Why Was This Study Done?
After seasonal and pandemic vaccines are made available to populations, it is necessary to estimate the effectiveness of the vaccines at the population level during every influenza season. Therefore, this study was conducted in European countries to estimate the pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness and seasonal influenza vaccine effectiveness against people presenting to their doctor with influenza-like illness who were confirmed (by laboratory tests) to be infected with pH1N1.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a multicenter case-control study on the basis of practitioner surveillance networks from seven countries—France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Portugal, and Spain. Patients consulting a participating practitioner for influenza-like illness had a nasal or throat swab taken within 8 days of symptom onset. Cases were swabbed patients who tested positive for pH1N1. Patients presenting with influenza-like illness whose swab tested negative for any influenza virus were controls.
Individuals were considered vaccinated if they had received a dose of the vaccine more than 14 days before the date of onset of influenza-like illness and unvaccinated if they were not vaccinated at all, or if the vaccine was given less than 15 days before the onset of symptoms. The researchers analyzed pandemic influenza vaccination effectiveness in those vaccinated less than 8 days, those vaccinated between and including 8 and 14 days, and those vaccinated more than 14 days before onset of symptoms compared to those who had never been vaccinated.
The researchers used modeling (taking account of all potential confounding factors) to estimate adjusted vaccine effectiveness and stratified the adjusted pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness and the adjusted seasonal influenza vaccine effectiveness in three age groups (<15, 15–64, and ≥65 years of age).
The adjusted results suggest that the 2009–2010 seasonal influenza vaccine did not protect against pH1N1 illness. However, one dose of the pandemic vaccines used in the participating countries conferred good protection (65.5%–100% according to various stratifications performed) against pH1N1 in people who attended their practitioner with influenza-like illness, especially in people aged <65 years and in those without any chronic disease. Furthermore, good pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness was observed as early as 8 days after vaccination.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results of this study provide early estimates of the pandemic influenza vaccine effectiveness suggesting that the monovalent pandemic vaccines have been effective. The findings also give an indication of the vaccine effectiveness for the Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 strain included in the 2010–2011 seasonal vaccines, although specific vaccine effectiveness studies will have to be conducted to verify if similar good effectiveness are observed with 2010–2011 trivalent vaccines. However, the results of this study should be interpreted with caution because of limitations in the pandemic context (late timing of the studies, low incidence, low vaccine coverage leading to imprecise estimates) and potential biases due the study design, confounding factors, and missing values. The researchers recommend that in future season studies, the sample size per country should be enlarged in order to allow for precise pooled and stratified analyses.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000388.
The World Health Organization has information on H1N1 vaccination
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a fact sheet on the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus
The US Department of Health and Human services has a comprehensive website on flu
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control provides information on 2009 H1N1 pandemic
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control presents a summary of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic in Europe and elsewhere
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000388
PMCID: PMC3019108  PMID: 21379316
10.  Live, Attenuated Influenza A H5N1 Candidate Vaccines Provide Broad Cross-Protection in Mice and Ferrets 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(9):e360.
Background
Recent outbreaks of highly pathogenic influenza A H5N1 viruses in humans and avian species that began in Asia and have spread to other continents underscore an urgent need to develop vaccines that would protect the human population in the event of a pandemic.
Methods and Findings
Live, attenuated candidate vaccines possessing genes encoding a modified H5 hemagglutinin (HA) and a wild-type (wt) N1 neuraminidase from influenza A H5N1 viruses isolated in Hong Kong and Vietnam in 1997, 2003, and 2004, and remaining gene segments derived from the cold-adapted (ca) influenza A vaccine donor strain, influenza A/Ann Arbor/6/60 ca (H2N2), were generated by reverse genetics. The H5N1 ca vaccine viruses required trypsin for efficient growth in vitro, as predicted by the modification engineered in the gene encoding the HA, and possessed the temperature-sensitive and attenuation phenotypes specified by the internal protein genes of the ca vaccine donor strain. More importantly, the candidate vaccines were immunogenic in mice. Four weeks after receiving a single dose of 106 50% tissue culture infectious doses of intranasally administered vaccines, mice were fully protected from lethality following challenge with homologous and antigenically distinct heterologous wt H5N1 viruses from different genetic sublineages (clades 1, 2, and 3) that were isolated in Asia between 1997 and 2005. Four weeks after receiving two doses of the vaccines, mice and ferrets were fully protected against pulmonary replication of homologous and heterologous wt H5N1 viruses.
Conclusions
The promising findings in these preclinical studies of safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy of the H5N1 ca vaccines against antigenically diverse H5N1 vaccines provide support for their careful evaluation in Phase 1 clinical trials in humans.
Promising preclinical results on safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy against diverse H5N1 strains provide support for careful evaluation of live, attenuated H5N1 vaccines in clinical trials in humans.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Influenza A viruses are classified into subtypes according to two of the proteins from the virus surface, the hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) proteins, each of which occurs naturally in several different versions. For example, the global epidemic (pandemic) of 1918–1919 was caused by an influenza virus containing subtype 1 hemagglutinin and subtype 1 neuraminidase (H1N1), the 1957–1958 pandemic involved an H2N2 virus, and the 1969 pandemic, H3N2. Since 1997, several serious outbreaks of H5N1 infection have occurred in poultry and in humans, raising concerns that H5N1 “bird flu” may cause the next human influenza pandemic. Although human-to-human transmission of H5N1 viruses appears limited, mortality rates in human outbreaks of the disease have been alarmingly high—approximately 50%. A protective vaccine against H5N1 influenza might not only benefit regions where transmission from poultry to humans occurs, but could conceivably avert global catastrophe in the event that H5N1 evolves such that human-to-human spread becomes more frequent.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several approaches are in progress to develop vaccines against H5N1 viruses. To date, the products that have been tested in humans have not been very effective in producing a strong immune response. To be optimal for human use, a vaccine would have to be very safe, remain stable in storage, and provide protection against influenza caused by naturally occurring H5N1 viruses that are not precisely identical to the ones used to make the vaccine. This study was done to develop a new H5N1 vaccine and to test it in animals.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed vaccines using three artificially constructed, weakened forms of the H5N1 influenza virus. The three vaccine viruses were constructed using flu virus proteins other than HA and NA from an artificially weakened (attenuated) strain of influenza. These were combined in laboratory-grown cells with HA and NA proteins from H5N1 viruses isolated from human cases during three different years: 2004, 2003, and 1997. They grew larger quantities of the resulting viruses in hen's eggs, and tested the vaccines in chickens, ferrets, and mice.
In tests of safety, the study found that, unlike the natural viruses from which they were derived, the vaccine strains did not cause death when injected into the bloodstream of chickens, and did not even cause infection when given through the birds' breathing passages. Similarly, while the natural viruses were lethal in mice at various doses, the vaccine strains did not cause death even at the highest dose. In ferrets, infection with the vaccine strains was limited to the upper respiratory tract, while the natural viruses spread to the lungs and other organs.
In tests of protection, all mice that had received any of the three vaccines survived following infection with any of the natural viruses (so-called viral challenge), while unvaccinated mice died following viral challenge. This occurred even though standard blood tests could not detect a strong immune responses following a single dose of vaccine. Challenge virus was detected in the lungs of the immunized mice, but at lower levels than in the unvaccinated mice. Mice given two doses of a vaccine showed stronger immunity on blood tests, and almost complete protection from respiratory infection following challenge. In addition, mice and ferrets that had received two doses of vaccine were protected against challenge with H5N1 strains from more recent outbreaks in Asia that differed substantially from the strains that were used for the vaccine.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study shows that it is possible to create a live, attenuated vaccine based on a single H5N1 virus that can provide protection (in mice and ferrets, at least) against different H5N1 viruses that emerge years later. Attenuated influenza virus vaccines of this sort are unlikely to be useful to protect fowl because they do not infect or induce an immune response in chickens. However, while the safety and protection found in small animals are encouraging, it is not possible to know without human testing whether a vaccine that protects mice and ferrets will work in humans, or how this type of vaccine may compare with others being developed for use in humans against H5N1 influenza. Tests of one of the vaccines in human volunteers in carefully conducted clinical trials are currently under way.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030360.
WHO Influenza Pandemic Preparedness page
US Department of Health and Human Services Avian and Pandemic flu information site
Wikipedia entry on H5N1 (note: Wikipedia is a free Internet encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
CDC Avian Influenza Web page
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030360
PMCID: PMC1564176  PMID: 16968127
11.  Optimizing the Dose of Pre-Pandemic Influenza Vaccines to Reduce the Infection Attack Rate 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(6):e218.
Background
The recent spread of avian influenza in wild birds and poultry may be a precursor to the emergence of a 1918-like human pandemic. Therefore, stockpiles of human pre-pandemic vaccine (targeted at avian strains) are being considered. For many countries, the principal constraint for these vaccine stockpiles will be the total mass of antigen maintained. We tested the hypothesis that lower individual doses (i.e., less than the recommended dose for maximum protection) may provide substantial extra community-level benefits because they would permit wider vaccine coverage for a given total size of antigen stockpile.
Methods and Findings
We used a mathematical model to predict infection attack rates under different policies. The model incorporated both an individual's response to vaccination at different doses and the process of person-to-person transmission of pandemic influenza. We found that substantial reductions in the attack rate are likely if vaccines are given to more people at lower doses. These results are applicable to all three vaccine candidates for which data are available. As a guide to the magnitude of the effect, we simulated epidemics based on historical studies of immunogenicity. For example, for one of the vaccines for which data are available, the attack rate would drop from 67.6% to 58.7% if 160 out of the total US population of 300 million were given an optimal dose rather than 20 out of 300 million given the maximally protective dose (as promulgated in the US National Pandemic Preparedness Plan). Our results are conservative with respect to a number of alternative assumptions about the precise nature of vaccine protection. We also considered a model variant that includes a single high-risk subgroup representing children. For smaller stockpile sizes that allow vaccine to be offered only to the high-risk group at the optimal dose, the predicted benefits of using the homogenous model formed a lower bound in the presence of a risk group, even when the high-risk group was twice as infective and twice as susceptible.
Conclusions
In addition to individual-level protection (i.e., vaccine efficacy), the population-level implications of pre-pandemic vaccine programs should be considered when deciding on stockpile size and dose. Our results suggest that a lower vaccine dose may be justified in order to increase population coverage, thereby reducing the infection attack rate overall.
Steven Riley and colleagues examine the potential benefits of "stretching" a limited supply of vaccine and suggest that substantial reductions in the attack rate are possible if vaccines are given to more people at lower doses.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Every winter, millions of people catch influenza, a viral infection of the nose, throat, and airways. Most recover quickly, but the disease can be deadly. In the US, seasonal influenza outbreaks (epidemics) cause 36,000 excess deaths annually. And now there are fears that an avian (bird) influenza virus might trigger a human influenza pandemic—a global epidemic that could kill millions. Seasonal epidemics occur because flu viruses continually make small changes to their hemagglutinin and neuraminidase molecules, the viral proteins (antigens) that the immune system recognizes. Because of this “antigenic drift,” an immune system response (which can be induced by catching flu or by vaccination with disabled circulating influenza strains) that combats flu one year may provide only partial protection the next year. “Antigenic shift” (large changes in flu antigens) can cause pandemics because communities have no immunity to the changed virus.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although avian influenza virus, which contains a hemagglutinin type that differs from currently circulating human flu viruses, has caused a few cases of human influenza, it has not started a human pandemic yet because it cannot move easily between people. If it acquires this property, which will probably involve further small antigenic changes, it could kill millions of people before scientists can develop an effective vaccine against it. To provide some interim protection, many countries are preparing stockpiles of “pre-pandemic” vaccines targeted against the avian virus. The US, for example, plans to store enough pre-pandemic vaccine to provide maximum protection to 20 million people (including key health workers) out of its population of 300 million. But, given a limited stockpile of pre-pandemic vaccine, might giving more people a lower dose of vaccine, which might reduce the number of people susceptible to infection and induce herd immunity by preventing efficient transmission of the flu virus, be a better way to limit the spread of pandemic influenza? In this study, the researchers have used mathematical modeling to investigate this question.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
To predict the infection rates associated with different vaccination policies, the researchers developed a mathematical model that incorporates data on human immune responses induced with three experimental vaccines against the avian virus and historical data on the person–person transmission of previous pandemic influenza viruses. For all the vaccines, the model predicts that giving more people a low dose of the vaccine would limit the spread of influenza better than giving fewer people the high dose needed for full individual protection. For example, the researchers estimate that dividing the planned US stockpile of one experimental vaccine equally between 160 million people instead of giving it at the fully protective dose to 20 million people might avert about 27 million influenza cases in less than year. However, giving the maximally protective dose to the 9 million US health-care workers and using the remaining vaccine at a lower dose to optimize protection within the general population might avert only 14 million infections.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that, given a limited stockpile of pre-pandemic vaccine, increasing the population coverage of vaccination by using low doses of vaccine might reduce the overall influenza infection rate more effectively than vaccinating fewer people with fully protective doses of vaccine. However, because the researchers' model includes many assumptions, it can only give an indication of how different strategies might perform, not firm numbers for how many influenza cases each strategy is likely to avert. Before public-health officials use this or a similar model to help them decide the best way to use pre-pandemic vaccines to control a human influenza pandemic, they will need more information about the efficacy of these vaccines and about transmission rates of currently circulating viruses. They will also need to know whether pre-pandemic vaccines actually provide good protection against the pandemic virus, as assumed in this study, before they can recommend mass immunization with low doses of pre-pandemic vaccine, selective vaccination with high doses, or a mixed strategy.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040218.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on influenza and influenza vaccination for patients and health professionals (in English, Spanish, Filipino, Chinese, and Vietnamese)
The World Health Organization has a fact sheet on influenza and on the global response to avian influenza (in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, and Chinese)
The MedlinePlus online encyclopedia devotes a page to flu (in English and Spanish)
The UK Health Protection Agency information on avian, pandemic, and seasonal influenza
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has a comprehensive feature called “focus on the flu”
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040218
PMCID: PMC1892041  PMID: 17579511
12.  Efficacy of Oseltamivir-Zanamivir Combination Compared to Each Monotherapy for Seasonal Influenza: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(11):e1000362.
Analysis of virological and clinical outcomes from a randomized trial that was terminated early suggest that combined treatment of seasonal influenza in adult outpatients with oseltamivir plus zanamivir is no more effective than either oseltamivir or zanamivir monotherapy.
Background
Neuraminidase inhibitors are thought to be efficacious in reducing the time to alleviation of symptoms in outpatients with seasonal influenza. The objective of this study was to compare the short-term virological efficacy of oseltamivir-zanamivir combination versus each monotherapy plus placebo.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a randomized placebo-controlled trial with 145 general practitioners throughout France during the 2008–2009 seasonal influenza epidemic. Patients, general practitioners, and outcome assessors were all blinded to treatment assignment. Adult outpatients presenting influenza-like illness for less than 36 hours and a positive influenza A rapid test diagnosis were randomized to oseltamivir 75 mg orally twice daily plus zanamivir 10 mg by inhalation twice daily (OZ), oseltamivir plus inhaled placebo (O), or zanamivir plus oral placebo (Z). Treatment efficacy was assessed virologically according to the proportion of patients with nasal influenza reverse transcription (RT)-PCR below 200 copies genome equivalent (cgeq)/µl at day 2 (primary outcome), and clinically to the time to alleviation of symptoms until day 14. Overall 541 patients (of the 900 planned) were included (OZ, n = 192; O, n = 176; Z, n = 173), 49% male, mean age 39 years. In the intention-to-treat analysis conducted in the 447 patients with RT-PCR-confirmed influenza A, 46%, 59%, and 34% in OZ (n = 157), O (n = 141), and Z (n = 149) arms had RT-PCR<200 cgeq/µl (−13.0%, 95% confidence interval [CI] −23.1 to −2.9, p = 0.025; +12.3%, 95% CI 2.39–22.2, p = 0.028 for OZ/O and OZ/Z comparisons). Mean day 0 to day 2 viral load decrease was 2.14, 2.49, and 1.68 log10 cgeq/µl (p = 0.060, p = 0.016 for OZ/O and OZ/Z). Median time to alleviation of symptoms was 4.0, 3.0, and 4.0 days (+1.0, 95% CI 0.0–4.0, p = 0.018; +0.0, 95% CI −3.0 to 3.0, p = 0.960 for OZ/O and OZ/Z). Four severe adverse events were observed. Nausea and/or vomiting tended to be more frequent in the combination arm (OZ, n = 13; O, n = 4; and Z, n = 5 patients, respectively).
Conclusions
In adults with seasonal influenza A mainly H3N2 virus infection, the oseltamivir-zanamivir combination appeared less effective than oseltamivir monotherapy, and not significantly more effective than zanamivir monotherapy. Despite the theoretical potential for the reduction of the emergence of antiviral resistance, the lower effectiveness of this combination calls for caution in its use in clinical practice.
Trial registration
www.ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00799760
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In the last few years, use of the neuraminidase inhibitors, oseltamivir and zanamivir, has been considered a key strategy for limiting the impact of influenza both in individuals (by reducing morbidity and mortality) and collectively (by slowing the virus' spread to buy time for vaccine production, the cornerstone of influenza control). However, there are concerns that widespread use of a single antiviral drug may lead to resistant strains, which could dramatically reduce its effectiveness in future. Theoretically, if well tolerated, and if producing at least additive antiviral activity, the combination of two antiviral agents could offer several advantages such as reducing disease severity and reducing the viral shedding period, which in turn could lead to lower infection rates and reduced resistance especially in immunocompromised patients. Importantly, combining two drugs could ensure optimal treatment of all types of circulating influenza virus and subtypes or variants. The combination of two neuraminidase inhibitors is feasible as both oseltamivir and zanamivir are licensed for seasonal influenza and have different key mutations associated with resistance to each drug.
Why Was This Study Done?
As yet, there have been no robust randomized controlled trials that compare the effectiveness of monotherapy with either oseltamivir or zanamivir with the effectiveness of a oseltamivir-zanamivir combination. Such a study would be important for influenza pandemic planning.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled trial within 145 general practitioners throughout France during the seasonal influenza epidemic in 2008–2009. Adults who visited their general practitioner with symptoms of an influenza-like illness for less than 36 hours and who had a positive influenza A rapid test were randomized to one of three arms: (1) oral oseltamivir 75 mg twice daily plus zanamivir 10 mg by inhalation twice daily, (2) oral oseltamivir 75 mg twice daily plus inhaled placebo, or (3) zanamivir 10 mg by inhalation twice daily plus oral placebo. The effects of the drugs or combination of drugs was assessed virologically, by looking at the proportion of patients with nasal influenza reverse transcription (RT)-PCR below a particular level on day 2 of treatment. Clinical measures of effectiveness included the time to resolution of illness, the number of patients with alleviation of symptoms at the end of treatment, and the incidence of secondary complications of influenza such as otitis, bronchitis, sinusitis, and pneumonia. In the study, patients, general practitioners, and outcome assessors were all blinded to treatment assignments. Due to the emergence of the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, the study's independent data-monitoring committee requested that the researchers terminate the trial early and analyze the results earlier than planned.
541 patients (of the 900 planned) were enrolled in the study (192 in group 1; 176 in group 2; and 173 in group 3) of whom 447 were infected with influenza A. Overall the oseltamivir-zanamivir combination was both virologically and clinically significantly less effective than the oseltamivir monotherapy. In addition, the clinical effects of the oseltamivir-zanamivir combination on time to resolution of symptoms were not significantly different from that of zanamivir monotherapy, suggesting that oseltamivir does not add clinical benefit to zanamivir monotherapy.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results of this study essentially show that in France during the Winter of 2009 prepandemic (of which 85% was due to of H3N2 virus), in adults with seasonal influenza A virus infection, the combination of oseltamivir and zanamivir was less effective than oseltamivir monotherapy and not significantly more effective than zanamivir monotherapy. These results call for caution in the use of the oseltamivir-zanamivir combination in treatment of adult outpatients. In addition, as the clinical and virological effects of oseltamivir monotherapy over zanamivir monotherapy were superior in this trial, oseltamivir should be the recommended treatment during influenza seasons with predominant H3N2 viruses. However, the results of this study should be confirmed in the coming years on future circulating influenza viruses.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000362.
Wikipedia has information on H3N3 influenza A virus (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The World Health Organization has a global alert and response site on seasonal influenza
Patient UK provides information about antivirals for influenza
Answers.com has information about oseltamivir and about zanamivir
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000362
PMCID: PMC2970549  PMID: 21072246
13.  Dynamics of Polymorphism in a Malaria Vaccine Antigen at a Vaccine-Testing Site in Mali 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(3):e93.
Background
Malaria vaccines based on the 19-kDa region of merozoite surface protein 1 (MSP-119) derived from the 3D7 strain of Plasmodium falciparum are being tested in clinical trials in Africa. Knowledge of the distribution and natural dynamics of vaccine antigen polymorphisms in populations in which malaria vaccines will be tested will guide vaccine design and permit distinction between natural fluctuations in genetic diversity and vaccine-induced selection.
Methods and Findings
Using pyrosequencing, six single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the nucleotide sequence encoding MSP-119 were genotyped from 1,363 malaria infections experienced by 100 children who participated in a prospective cohort study in Mali from 1999 to 2001. The frequencies of 14 MSP-119 haplotypes were compared over the course of the malaria transmission season for all three years, in three age groups, and in consecutive infections within individuals. While the frequency of individual MSP-119 haplotypes fluctuated, haplotypes corresponding to FVO and FUP strains of P. falciparum (MSP-119 haplotypes QKSNGL and EKSNGL, respectively) were most prevalent during three consecutive years and in all age groups with overall prevalences of 46% (95% confidence interval [CI] 44%–49%) and 36% (95% CI 34%–39%), respectively. The 3D7 haplotype had a lower overall prevalence of 16% (95% CI 14%–18%). Multiplicity of infection based on MSP-119 was higher at the beginning of the transmission season and in the oldest individuals (aged ≥11 y). Three MSP-119 haplotypes had a reduced frequency in symptomatic infections compared to asymptomatic infections. Analyses of the dynamics of MSP-119 polymorphisms in consecutive infections implicate three polymorphisms (at positions 1691, 1700, and 1701) as being particularly important in determining allele specificity of anti-MSP-119 immunity.
Conclusions
Parasites with MSP-119 haplotypes different from that of the leading vaccine strain were consistently the most prevalent at a vaccine trial site. If immunity elicited by an MSP-1-based vaccine is allele-specific, a vaccine based on either the FVO or FUP strain might have better initial efficacy at this site. This study, to our knowledge the largest of its kind to date, provides molecular information needed to interpret population responses to MSP-1-based vaccines and suggests that certain MSP-119 polymorphisms may be relevant to cross-protective immunity.
Christopher Plowe and colleagues surveyed local malaria parasites for genetic diversity in MSP-1, a candidate vaccine antigen. These data are needed to interpret population responses to MSP-1-based vaccines during trials planned at this site.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Malaria, a tropical parasitic disease, kills about one million people—mainly children—every year. Most of these deaths are caused by Plasmodium falciparum, which is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes. These insects inject a form of the parasite known as sporozoites into people that replicates inside liver cells without causing symptoms. Four to five days later, merozoites (another form of the parasite) are released from the liver cells and invade red blood cells. Here, they replicate 10-fold before bursting out and infecting other red blood cells. This massive increase in parasite burden causes malaria's flu-like symptoms. If untreated, it also causes anemia (a red blood cell deficit) and damages the brain and other organs where parasitized red blood cells sequester. Malaria can be treated with antimalarial drugs and partly prevented by reducing the chances of being bitten by an infected mosquito. In addition, researchers are developing vaccines designed to reduce the global burden of malaria. These contain individual malaria antigens (proteins from the parasite that stimulate an immune response) that should, when injected into people, prime the immune system so that it can rapidly control malaria infections.
Why Was This Study Done?
The development of an effective malaria vaccine is not easy, in part because people can be simultaneously infected with several parasite strains. These often carry different variants (alleles) of the genes encoding antigens, which means that the actual parasite proteins might differ from the ones used for vaccination. If this is the case, the immune response generated by the vaccine might be less effective or even ineffective. An ideal vaccine would therefore stimulate an immune response that recognizes all these strain-specific antigens. However, little is known about their distribution in parasite populations in malarial regions, or about how this distribution changes over time (its dynamics). This information is needed to aid vaccine design and development. In this study, the researchers have investigated the distribution and dynamics of genetic variants of a merozoite antigen called MSP-119, which is included in a vaccine currently being tested in Mali, West Africa. Although most of the MSP-119 sequence is conserved, it contains six strain-specific polymorphisms (genetic variations); the candidate vaccine contains MSP-119 from the 3D7 strain of P. falciparum.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used rapid DNA sequencing (pyrosequencing) to examine the MSP-119 sequence in more than 1,300 malaria infections in 100 Malian children. They compared the frequencies of 14 MSP-119 haplotypes (sets of polymorphisms at the six variant sites) over three years, in three age groups, and in consecutive infections within individuals. They found that the frequency of individual MSP-119 haplotypes fluctuated in their study population but that those found in P. falciparum FVO and FUP strains were always the commonest, each being present in about 40% of the infections. By contrast, the P. falciparum 3D7 MSP-119 haplotype was present in only 16% of the infections. They also found that mixed infections were more common at the start of each malaria season and in older individuals. In addition, individuals who were infected repeatedly by parasites from different strains (with different MSP-119 variants) seemed to get sick with malaria more often than those infected multiple times by the same strain. The differences might, therefore, be important in determining the specificity of the immune response to MSP-119.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that most parasites that cause malaria at the Malian test site for the malaria vaccine that contains 3D7-specific MSP-119 have a different form of MSP-119. Although early results from field trials suggest that the 3D7-derived vaccine provides some protection against the more common FVO and FUP strains, the immunity stimulated by the vaccine might be mainly allele specific. If this turns out to be the case, these results suggest that a FVO- or FUP-derived vaccine might be more effective in Mali than the 3D7-derived vaccine, though not necessarily elsewhere. More generally, these results show the importance of determining the genetics of pathogen populations before starting vaccine trials. Without this information, a vaccine's ability to prevent infections with specific parasite strains cannot be determined accurately and potentially useful vaccines might be abandoned if they are tested in inappropriate populations. Importantly, baseline information of this sort will also allow vaccine developers to detect any vaccine-induced changes in the pathogen population that might affect the long-term efficacy of their vaccines.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040093.
A related PLoS Medicine Perspective by Colin Sutherland discusses variation in malaria antigens as a challenge in vaccine development
The malaria program of the University of Maryland Center for Vaccine Development performs research on many aspects of malaria
Information on malaria and the development of vaccines is available from the Malaria Vaccine Initiative
The World Health Organization provides links to general information on malaria plus some specific information on malaria vaccine development
MedlinePlus encyclopedia has entries on malaria and on vaccination
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information for patients and professionals on malaria
US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has information on malaria, including research into vaccines
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040093
PMCID: PMC1820605  PMID: 17355170
14.  Intranasal Vaccination Promotes Detrimental Th17-Mediated Immunity against Influenza Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(1):e1003875.
Influenza disease is a global health issue that causes significant morbidity and mortality through seasonal epidemics. Currently, inactivated influenza virus vaccines given intramuscularly or live attenuated influenza virus vaccines administered intranasally are the only approved options for vaccination against influenza virus in humans. We evaluated the efficacy of a synthetic toll-like receptor 4 agonist CRX-601 as an adjuvant for enhancing vaccine-induced protection against influenza infection. Intranasal administration of CRX-601 adjuvant combined with detergent split-influenza antigen (A/Uruguay/716/2007 (H3N2)) generated strong local and systemic immunity against co-administered influenza antigens while exhibiting high efficacy against two heterotypic influenza challenges. Intranasal vaccination with CRX-601 adjuvanted vaccines promoted antigen-specific IgG and IgA antibody responses and the generation of polyfunctional antigen-specific Th17 cells (CD4+IL-17A+TNFα+). Following challenge with influenza virus, vaccinated mice transiently exhibited increased weight loss and morbidity during early stages of disease but eventually controlled infection. This disease exacerbation following influenza infection in vaccinated mice was dependent on both the route of vaccination and the addition of the adjuvant. Neutralization of IL-17A confirmed a detrimental role for this cytokine during influenza infection. The expansion of vaccine-primed Th17 cells during influenza infection was also accompanied by an augmented lung neutrophilic response, which was partially responsible for mediating the increased morbidity. This discovery is of significance in the field of vaccinology, as it highlights the importance of both route of vaccination and adjuvant selection in vaccine development
Author Summary
Influenza virus remains a global health risk causing significant morbidity and mortality each year, with the elderly (>65 years) and the very young particularly prone to severe respiratory disease. Scientists are working to develop highly efficacious vaccines capable of eliciting broad cross-clade protection from influenza infection. Adjuvants as well as the route of immunization are known to modulate the type, quality and breadth of immune responses to vaccines. In this study, we demonstrated intranasal vaccination with influenza antigens, and a novel synthetic TLR4-based adjuvant system provided protection against a lethal heterologous viral challenge. Immunization stimulated mucosal influenza-specific IgA antibody responses together with systemic IgG antibodies. While intranasal immunization stimulated the production of protective antibodies, vaccination via this route also promoted the generation of influenza-specific Th17 CD4+ T cells. These vaccine-induced Th17 cells increased inflammation and morbidity without contributing to viral clearance following challenge. Antibody neutralization of IL-17A during influenza infection significantly reduced the enhanced lung neutrophilic response, which was partially responsible for mediating the increased morbidity. This discovery is of significance in the field of vaccinology, as it demonstrates the importance of both route of immunization and adjuvant selection in vaccine development.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003875
PMCID: PMC3900655  PMID: 24465206
15.  A Comparative Analysis of Influenza Vaccination Programs 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e387.
Background
The threat of avian influenza and the 2004–2005 influenza vaccine supply shortage in the United States have sparked a debate about optimal vaccination strategies to reduce the burden of morbidity and mortality caused by the influenza virus.
Methods and Findings
We present a comparative analysis of two classes of suggested vaccination strategies: mortality-based strategies that target high-risk populations and morbidity-based strategies that target high-prevalence populations. Applying the methods of contact network epidemiology to a model of disease transmission in a large urban population, we assume that vaccine supplies are limited and then evaluate the efficacy of these strategies across a wide range of viral transmission rates and for two different age-specific mortality distributions.
We find that the optimal strategy depends critically on the viral transmission level (reproductive rate) of the virus: morbidity-based strategies outperform mortality-based strategies for moderately transmissible strains, while the reverse is true for highly transmissible strains. These results hold for a range of mortality rates reported for prior influenza epidemics and pandemics. Furthermore, we show that vaccination delays and multiple introductions of disease into the community have a more detrimental impact on morbidity-based strategies than mortality-based strategies.
Conclusions
If public health officials have reasonable estimates of the viral transmission rate and the frequency of new introductions into the community prior to an outbreak, then these methods can guide the design of optimal vaccination priorities. When such information is unreliable or not available, as is often the case, this study recommends mortality-based vaccination priorities.
A comparative analysis of two classes of suggested vaccination strategies, mortality-based strategies that target high-risk populations and morbidity-based strategies that target high-prevalence populations.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Influenza—a viral infection of the nose, throat, and airways that is transmitted in airborne droplets released by coughing or sneezing—is a serious public health threat. Most people recover quickly from influenza, but some individuals, especially infants, old people, and individuals with chronic health problems, can develop pneumonia and die. In the US, seasonal outbreaks (epidemics) of flu cause an estimated 36,000 excess deaths annually. And now there are fears that avian influenza might start a human pandemic—a global epidemic that could kill millions. Seasonal outbreaks of influenza occur because flu viruses continually change the viral proteins (antigens) to which the immune system responds. “Antigenic drift”—small changes in these proteins—means that an immune system response that combats flu one year may not provide complete protection the next winter. “Antigenic shift”—large antigen changes—can cause pandemics because communities have no immunity to the changed virus. Annual vaccination with vaccines based on the currently circulating viruses controls seasonal flu epidemics; to control a pandemic, vaccines based on the antigenically altered virus would have to be quickly developed.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most countries target vaccination efforts towards the people most at risk of dying from influenza, and to health-care workers who are likely come into contact with flu patients. But is this the best way to reduce the burden of illness (morbidity) and death (mortality) caused by influenza, particularly at the start of a pandemic, when vaccine would be limited? Old people and infants are much less likely to catch and spread influenza than school children, students, and employed adults, so could vaccination of these sections of the population—instead of those most at risk of death—be the best way to contain influenza outbreaks? In this study, the researchers used an analytical method called “contact network epidemiology” to compare two types of vaccination strategies: the currently favored mortality-based strategy, which targets high-risk individuals, and a morbidity-based strategy, which targets those segments of the community in which most influenza cases occur.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Most models of disease transmission assume that each member of a community is equally likely to infect every other member. But a baby is unlikely to transmit flu to, for example, an unrelated, housebound elderly person. Contact network epidemiology takes the likely relationships between people into account when modeling disease transmission. Using information from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on household size, age distribution, and occupations, and other factors such as school sizes, the researchers built a model population of a quarter of a million interconnected people. They then investigated how different vaccination strategies controlled the spread of influenza in this population. The optimal strategy depended on the level of viral transmissibility—the likelihood that an infectious person transmits influenza to a susceptible individual with whom he or she has contact. For moderately transmissible flu viruses, a morbidity-based vaccination strategy, in which the people most likely to catch the flu are vaccinated, was more effective at containing seasonal and pandemic outbreaks than a mortality-based strategy, in which the people most likely to die if they caught the flu are vaccinated. For highly transmissible strains, this situation was reversed. The level of transmissibility at which this reversal occurred depended on several factors, including whether vaccination was delayed and how many times influenza was introduced into the community.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers tested their models by checking that they could replicate real influenza epidemics and pandemics, but, as with all mathematical models, they included many assumptions about influenza in their calculations, which may affect their results. Also, because the contact network used data from Vancouver, their results might not be applicable to other cities, or to nonurban areas. Nevertheless, their findings have important public health implications. When there are reasonable estimates of the viral transmission rate, and it is known how often influenza is being introduced into a community, contact network models could help public health officials choose between morbidity- and mortality-based vaccination strategies. When the viral transmission rate is unreliable or unavailable (for example, at the start of a pandemic), the best policy would be the currently preferred strategy of mortality-based vaccination. More generally, the use of contact network models should improve estimates of how infectious diseases spread through populations and indicate the best ways to control human epidemics and pandemics.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030387.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information about influenza for patients and professionals, including key facts on vaccination
US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases feature on seasonal, avian, and pandemic influenza
World Health Organization fact sheet on influenza, with links to information on vaccination
UK Health Protection Agency information on seasonal, avian, and pandemic influenza
MedlinePlus entry on influenza
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030387
PMCID: PMC1584413  PMID: 17020406
16.  Monitoring the Impact of Influenza by Age: Emergency Department Fever and Respiratory Complaint Surveillance in New York City 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(8):e247.
Background
The importance of understanding age when estimating the impact of influenza on hospitalizations and deaths has been well described, yet existing surveillance systems have not made adequate use of age-specific data. Monitoring influenza-related morbidity using electronic health data may provide timely and detailed insight into the age-specific course, impact and epidemiology of seasonal drift and reassortment epidemic viruses. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the use of emergency department (ED) chief complaint data for measuring influenza-attributable morbidity by age and by predominant circulating virus.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed electronically reported ED fever and respiratory chief complaint and viral surveillance data in New York City (NYC) during the 2001–2002 through 2005–2006 influenza seasons, and inferred dominant circulating viruses from national surveillance reports. We estimated influenza-attributable impact as observed visits in excess of a model-predicted baseline during influenza periods, and epidemic timing by threshold and cross correlation. We found excess fever and respiratory ED visits occurred predominantly among school-aged children (8.5 excess ED visits per 1,000 children aged 5–17 y) with little or no impact on adults during the early-2002 B/Victoria-lineage epidemic; increased fever and respiratory ED visits among children younger than 5 y during respiratory syncytial virus-predominant periods preceding epidemic influenza; and excess ED visits across all ages during the 2003–2004 (9.2 excess visits per 1,000 population) and 2004–2005 (5.2 excess visits per 1,000 population) A/H3N2 Fujian-lineage epidemics, with the relative impact shifted within and between seasons from younger to older ages. During each influenza epidemic period in the study, ED visits were increased among school-aged children, and each epidemic peaked among school-aged children before other impacted age groups.
Conclusions
Influenza-related morbidity in NYC was highly age- and strain-specific. The impact of reemerging B/Victoria-lineage influenza was focused primarily on school-aged children born since the virus was last widespread in the US, while epidemic A/Fujian-lineage influenza affected all age groups, consistent with a novel antigenic variant. The correspondence between predominant circulating viruses and excess ED visits, hospitalizations, and deaths shows that excess fever and respiratory ED visits provide a reliable surrogate measure of incident influenza-attributable morbidity. The highly age-specific impact of influenza by subtype and strain suggests that greater age detail be incorporated into ongoing surveillance. Influenza morbidity surveillance using electronic data currently available in many jurisdictions can provide timely and representative information about the age-specific epidemiology of circulating influenza viruses.
Don Olson and colleagues report that influenza-related morbidity in NYC from 2001 to 2006 was highly age- and strain-specific and conclude that surveillance using electronic data can provide timely and representative information about the epidemiology of circulating influenza viruses.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Seasonal outbreaks (epidemics) of influenza (a viral infection of the nose, throat, and airways) send millions of people to their beds every winter. Most recover quickly, but flu epidemics often disrupt daily life and can cause many deaths. Seasonal epidemics occur because influenza viruses continually make small changes to the viral proteins (antigens) that the human immune system recognizes. Consequently, an immune response that combats influenza one year may provide partial or no protection the following year. Occasionally, an influenza virus with large antigenic changes emerges that triggers an influenza pandemic, or global epidemic. To help prepare for both seasonal epidemics and pandemics, public-health officials monitor influenza-related illness and death, investigate unusual outbreaks of respiratory diseases, and characterize circulating strains of the influenza virus. While traditional influenza-related illness surveillance systems rely on relatively slow voluntary clinician reporting of cases with influenza-like illness symptoms, some jurisdictions have also started to use “syndromic” surveillance systems. These use electronic health-related data rather than clinical impression to track illness in the community. For example, increased visits to emergency departments for fever or respiratory (breathing) problems can provide an early warning of an influenza outbreak.
Why Was This Study Done?
Rapid illness surveillance systems have been shown to detect flu outbreaks earlier than is possible through monitoring deaths from pneumonia or influenza. Increases in visits to emergency departments by children for fever or respiratory problems can provide an even earlier indicator. Researchers have not previously examined in detail how fever and respiratory problems by age group correlate with the predominant circulating respiratory viruses. Knowing details like this would help public-health officials detect and respond to influenza epidemics and pandemics. In this study, the researchers have used data collected between 2001 and 2006 in New York City emergency departments to investigate these aspects of syndromic surveillance for influenza.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed emergency department visits categorized broadly into a fever and respiratory syndrome (which provides an estimate of the total visits attributable to influenza) or more narrowly into an influenza-like illness syndrome (which specifically indicates fever with cough and/or sore throat) with laboratory-confirmed influenza surveillance data. They found that emergency department visits were highest during peak influenza periods, and that the affect on different age groups varied depending on the predominant circulating viruses. In early 2002, an epidemic reemergence of B/Victoria-lineage influenza viruses caused increased visits among school-aged children, while adult visits did not increase. By contrast, during the 2003–2004 season, when the predominant virus was an A/H3N2 Fujian-lineage influenza virus, excess visits occurred in all age groups, though the relative increase was greatest and earliest among school-aged children. During periods of documented respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) circulation, increases in fever and respiratory emergency department visits occurred in children under five years of age regardless of influenza circulation. Finally, the researchers found that excess visits to emergency departments for fever and respiratory symptoms preceded deaths from pneumonia or influenza by about two weeks.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that excess emergency department visits for fever and respiratory symptoms can provide a reliable and timely surrogate measure of illness due to influenza. They also provide new insights into how different influenza viruses affect people of different ages and how the timing and progression of each influenza season differs. These results, based on data collected over only five years in one city, might not be generalizable to other settings or years, warn the researchers. However, the present results strongly suggest that the routine monitoring of influenza might be improved by using electronic health-related data, such as emergency department visit data, and by examining it specifically by age group. Furthermore, by showing that school-aged children can be the first people to be affected by seasonal influenza, these results highlight the important role this age group plays in community-wide transmission of influenza, an observation that could influence the implementation of public-health strategies such as vaccination that aim to protect communities during influenza epidemics and pandemics.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040247.
• US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on influenza for patients and health professionals and on influenza surveillance in the US (in English, Spanish, and several other languages)
• World Health Organization has a fact sheet on influenza and on global surveillance for influenza (in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, and Chinese)
• The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on flu (in English and Spanish)
• US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has a feature called “focus on flu”
• A detailed report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention titled “Framework for Evaluating Public Health Surveillance Systems for Early Detection of Outbreaks” includes a simple description of syndromic surveillance
• The International Society for Disease Surveillance has a collaborative syndromic surveillance public wiki
• The Anthropology of the Contemporary Research Collaboratory includes working papers and discussions by cultural anthropologists studying modern vital systems security and syndromic surveillance
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040247
PMCID: PMC1939858  PMID: 17683196
17.  Antigenic Fingerprinting of H5N1 Avian Influenza Using Convalescent Sera and Monoclonal Antibodies Reveals Potential Vaccine and Diagnostic Targets 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(4):e1000049.
Using whole-genome-fragment phage display libraries, Hana Golding and colleagues identify the viral epitopes recognized by serum antibodies in humans who have recovered from infection with H5N1 avian influenza.
Background
Transmission of highly pathogenic avian H5N1 viruses from poultry to humans have raised fears of an impending influenza pandemic. Concerted efforts are underway to prepare effective vaccines and therapies including polyclonal or monoclonal antibodies against H5N1. Current efforts are hampered by the paucity of information on protective immune responses against avian influenza. Characterizing the B cell responses in convalescent individuals could help in the design of future vaccines and therapeutics.
Methods and Findings
To address this need, we generated whole-genome–fragment phage display libraries (GFPDL) expressing fragments of 15–350 amino acids covering all the proteins of A/Vietnam/1203/2004 (H5N1). These GFPDL were used to analyze neutralizing human monoclonal antibodies and sera of five individuals who had recovered from H5N1 infection. This approach led to the mapping of two broadly neutralizing human monoclonal antibodies with conformation-dependent epitopes. In H5N1 convalescent sera, we have identified several potentially protective H5N1-specific human antibody epitopes in H5 HA[(-10)-223], neuraminidase catalytic site, and M2 ectodomain. In addition, for the first time to our knowledge in humans, we identified strong reactivity against PB1-F2, a putative virulence factor, following H5N1 infection. Importantly, novel epitopes were identified, which were recognized by H5N1-convalescent sera but did not react with sera from control individuals (H5N1 naïve, H1N1 or H3N2 seropositive).
Conclusion
This is the first study, to our knowledge, describing the complete antibody repertoire following H5N1 infection. Collectively, these data will contribute to rational vaccine design and new H5N1-specific serodiagnostic surveillance tools.
Editors' Summary
Background
Every winter, millions of people catch influenza, a viral infection of the airways. Most recover quickly but seasonal influenza outbreaks (epidemics) kill about half a million people annually. These epidemics occur because small but frequent changes in the viral proteins (antigens) to which the human immune system responds mean that an immune response produced one year by infection or through vaccination provides only partial protection against influenza the next year. Influenza viruses also occasionally appear that contain major antigenic changes. Human populations have little or no immunity to such viruses (which often originate in animals or birds), so they can start deadly global epidemics (pandemics ). Worryingly, the last influenza pandemic occurred in 1968 and many experts fear that another pandemic is now overdue. The trigger for such a pandemic, they think, could be the avian (bird) H5N1 influenza virus, which first appeared in 1996 in a goose in China. The name indicates the types of two major influenza antigens present in the virus: H5N1 carries type 5 hemagglutinin and type 1 neuraminidase.
Why Was This Study Done?
H5N1 has caused about 400 confirmed cases of human influenza and more than 250 deaths in the past decade but it has not started a human pandemic because it cannot pass easily between people. However, it could possibly acquire this ability at any time, so it is a priority to develop both vaccines that will provide protection against a pandemic H5N1 viral strain, as well as antibody-based antiviral therapies for people not protected by vaccination (antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system that help to fight infections; people can sometimes be protected from infection by injecting them with pre-prepared antibodies). To do this, scientists need to know how the human immune system responds to the H5N1 virus. In particular, they need to know which parts of the virus the immune system can detect and make antibodies against. In this study, therefore, the researchers characterize the specific antibody responses found in people recovering from infection with H5N1.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers made several “genome-fragment phage display libraries”, collections of bacterial viruses (phages) engineered so that each phage makes one of many possible short pieces (polypeptides) of a nonphage protein. Such “libraries” can be used to investigate which fragments are recognized by antibodies from a given source. In this case, several libraries were made that contained fragments of the genome of the H5N1 strain responsible for an outbreak of human influenza in Vietnam in 2004–2005 (A/Vietnam/1203/2004). The researchers used these libraries to analyze the antibodies made by five Vietnamese people recovering from infection with A/Vietnam/1203/2004. H5N1 convalescent blood samples, the researchers report, contained antibodies that recognized small regions (“epitopes”) in several viral proteins, including hemagglutinin, neuraminidase, a structural protein called M2, and a viral protein called PB1-F2 that is partly responsible for the severity of H5N1 infections. Several of the novel epitopes identified were not recognized by antibodies in blood taken from people recovering from infection with other influenza viruses. The researchers also used their phage display libraries to analyze two neutralizing human monoclonal antibodies generated from patients infected with A/Vietnam/1203/2004 (neutralizing antibodies protect mice against normally lethal challenge with H5N1; monoclonal antibodies are generated in the laboratory by creating continuously growing cell lines that produce a single type of antibody). Importantly, both of the neutralizing monoclonal antibodies recognized “noncontinuous conformation-dependent epitopes”—protein sequences that are not adjacent to one another in the polypeptide sequence of the protein, but that lie close together in space because of the way the protein is folded up.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although some aspects of the antibody repertoire produced in people exposed to the H5N1 influenza virus may have been missed in this analysis, these findings provide important and detailed new information about how the human immune system responds to infection with this virus. In particular, they show that people recovering from H5N1 infection make a diverse range of antibodies against several viral proteins for at least six months and identify specific parts of H5N1 that may be particularly good at stimulating a protective immune response. This information can now be used to help design vaccines against H5N1 and antibody-based therapies for the treatment of H5N1 infections, and to develop new tools for monitoring outbreaks of avian influenza in human populations.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000049.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Malik Peiris
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information for about influenza for patients and professionals, including specific information on avian and pandemic influenza (in several languages)
The World Health Organization provides information on influenza (in several languages) and on H5N1 avian influenza (in several languages), and a global timeline about H5N1 avian influenza infection in birds and people
The UK Health Protection Agency provides information on avian, pandemic, and epidemic (seasonal) influenza
MedlinePlus provides a list of links to other information about influenza and bird flu (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000049
PMCID: PMC2661249  PMID: 19381279
18.  Economic Appraisal of Ontario's Universal Influenza Immunization Program: A Cost-Utility Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(4):e1000256.
Beate Sander and colleagues assess the cost-effectiveness of the program that provides free seasonal influenza vaccines to the entire population of Ontario, Canada.
Background
In July 2000, the province of Ontario, Canada, initiated a universal influenza immunization program (UIIP) to provide free seasonal influenza vaccines for the entire population. This is the first large-scale program of its kind worldwide. The objective of this study was to conduct an economic appraisal of Ontario's UIIP compared to a targeted influenza immunization program (TIIP).
Methods and Findings
A cost-utility analysis using Ontario health administrative data was performed. The study was informed by a companion ecological study comparing physician visits, emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths between 1997 and 2004 in Ontario and nine other Canadian provinces offering targeted immunization programs. The relative change estimates from pre-2000 to post-2000 as observed in other provinces were applied to pre-UIIP Ontario event rates to calculate the expected number of events had Ontario continued to offer targeted immunization. Main outcome measures were quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), costs in 2006 Canadian dollars, and incremental cost-utility ratios (incremental cost per QALY gained). Program and other costs were drawn from Ontario sources. Utility weights were obtained from the literature. The incremental cost of the program per QALY gained was calculated from the health care payer perspective. Ontario's UIIP costs approximately twice as much as a targeted program but reduces influenza cases by 61% and mortality by 28%, saving an estimated 1,134 QALYs per season overall. Reducing influenza cases decreases health care services cost by 52%. Most cost savings can be attributed to hospitalizations avoided. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio is Can$10,797/QALY gained. Results are most sensitive to immunization cost and number of deaths averted.
Conclusions
Universal immunization against seasonal influenza was estimated to be an economically attractive intervention.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Annual outbreaks (epidemics) of influenza—a viral disease of the nose, throat, and airways—make millions of people ill and kill about 500,000 individuals every year. In doing so, they impose a considerable economic burden on society in terms of health care costs and lost productivity. Influenza epidemics occur because small but frequent changes in the viral proteins to which the immune system responds mean that an immune response produced one year by exposure to an influenza virus provides only partial protection against influenza the next year. Annual immunization with a vaccine that contains killed influenza viruses of the major circulating strains can boost this natural immunity and greatly reduce a person's chances of catching influenza. Consequently, many countries run seasonal influenza vaccine programs. These programs usually target people at high risk of complications from influenza and individuals likely to come into close contact with them, and people who provide essential community services. So, for example, in most Canadian provinces, targeted influenza immunization programs (TIIPs) offer free influenza vaccinations to people aged 65 years or older, to people with chronic medical conditions, and to health care workers.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some experts argue, however, that universal vaccination might provide populations with better protection from influenza. In 2000, the province of Ontario in Canada decided, therefore, to introduce a universal influenza immunization program (UIIP) to provide free influenza vaccination to everyone older than 6 months, the first large program of this kind in the world. A study published in 2008 showed that, following the introduction of the UIIP, vaccination rates in Ontario increased more than in other Canadian provinces. In addition, deaths from influenza and influenza-related use of health care facilities decreased more in Ontario than in provinces that continued to offer a TIIP. But is universal influenza vaccination good value for money? In this study, the researchers evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the Ontario UIIP by comparing the health outcomes and costs associated with its introduction with the health outcomes and costs associated with a hypothetical continuation of targeted influenza immunization.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used data on TIIP and UIIP vaccine uptake, physician visits, emergency department visits, hospitalizations for influenza, and deaths from influenza between 1997 and 2004 in Ontario and in nine Canadian states offering TIIPs, and Ontario cost data, in their “cost-utility” analysis. This type of analysis estimates the additional cost required to generate a year of perfect health (a quality-adjusted life-year or QALY) through the introduction of an intervention. QALYs are calculated by multiplying the time spent in a certain health state by a measure of the quality of that health state. The researchers report that the cost of Ontario's UIIP was about twice as much as the cost of a TIIP for the province. However, the introduction of the UIIP reduced the number of influenza cases by nearly two-thirds and reduced deaths from influenza by more than a quarter compared with what would have been expected had the province continued to offer a TIIP, an overall saving of 1,134 QALYs. Furthermore, the reduction in influenza cases halved influenza-related health care costs, mainly because of reductions in hospitalization. Overall, this means that the additional cost to Ontario of saving one QALY through the introduction of the UIIP was Can$10,797, an “incremental cost-effectiveness ratio” of $10,797 per QALY gained.
What Do These Findings Mean?
In Canada, an intervention is considered cost-effective from the point of view of a health care purchaser if it costs less than Canadian $50,000 to gain one QALY. These findings indicate, therefore, that for Ontario the introduction of the UIIP is economically attractive. Indeed, the researchers calculate that even if the costs of the UIIP were to double, the additional cost of saving one QALY by introducing universal immunization would remain below $50,000. Other “sensitivity” analyses undertaken by the researchers also indicate that universal immunization is likely to be effective and cost-effective in Ontario if other key assumptions and/or data included in the calculations are varied within reasonable limits. Given these findings, the researchers suggest that a UIIP might be an appealing intervention in other Canadian provinces and in other high-income countries where influenza transmission and health-care costs are broadly similar to those in Ontario.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000256.
A PLoS Medicine Research Article by Kwong and colleagues describes how the introduction of universal influenza immunization in Ontario altered influenza-related health care use and deaths in the province
Wikipedia pages are available on QALYs and on cost-utility analysis (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
Bandolier, an independent online journal about evidence-based health-care, provides information about QALYs and their use in cost-utility analysis
The UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has a webpage on Measuring effectiveness and cost-effectiveness: the QALY
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000256
PMCID: PMC2850382  PMID: 20386727
19.  Effect of influenza vaccines against mismatched strains: a systematic review protocol 
Systematic Reviews  2012;1:35.
Background
Influenza vaccines are most effective when the antigens in the vaccine match those of circulating influenza strains. The extent to which the vaccine is protective when circulating strains differ from vaccine antigens, or are mismatched, is uncertain. We propose to systematically review the cross-protection offered by influenza vaccines against circulating influenza A or B viruses that are not antigenically well-matched to vaccine strains.
Methods/Design
This is a protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis. Placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials (RCTs) reporting laboratory-confirmed influenza among healthy participants vaccinated with antigens of influenza strains that differed from those circulating will be included. The primary outcome is the incidence of laboratory-confirmed influenza (polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or viral culture). The secondary outcome is the incidence of laboratory-confirmed influenza through antibody assay (a less sensitive test than PCR or viral culture) alone or combined with PCR, and/ or viral culture. The review will be limited to RCTs written in English.
We will search MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, previous influenza reviews, and the reference lists of included studies to identify potentially relevant RCTs. Two independent reviewers will conduct all levels of screening, data abstraction, and quality appraisal (using the Cochrane risk of bias tool).
If appropriate, random effects meta-analysis of vaccine efficacy will be conducted in SAS (version 9.2) by calculating the relative risk. Vaccine efficacy will be calculated using the following formula: (1 - relative risk × 100). The results will be analyzed by type of vaccine (live attenuated, trivalent inactivated, or other). Subgroup analysis will include the effects of age (children, adults, older participants), and influenza A versus influenza B on the results. For influenza B we will also consider variable degrees of antigenic mismatch (lineage and drift mismatch).
Discussion
Our results can be used by researchers and policy-makers to help predict the efficacy of influenza vaccines during mismatched influenza seasons. Furthermore, the review will be of interest to patients and clinicians to determine whether to get immunized or support immunization for a particular influenza season.
doi:10.1186/2046-4053-1-35
PMCID: PMC3488466  PMID: 22846340
Antigenic variation; Cross protection; Influenza A virus; Influenza B virus; Protocol; Systematic review; Vaccines
20.  Vaccinating to Protect a Vulnerable Subpopulation 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(5):e174.
Background
Epidemic influenza causes serious mortality and morbidity in temperate countries each winter. Research suggests that schoolchildren are critical in the spread of influenza virus, while the elderly and the very young are most vulnerable to the disease. Under these conditions, it is unclear how best to focus prevention efforts in order to protect the population. Here we investigate the question of how to protect a population against a disease when one group is particularly effective at spreading disease and another group is more vulnerable to the effects of the disease.
Methods and Findings
We developed a simple mathematical model of an epidemic that includes assortative mixing between groups of hosts. We evaluate the impact of different vaccine allocation strategies across a wide range of parameter values. With this model we demonstrate that the optimal vaccination strategy is extremely sensitive to the assortativity of population mixing, as well as to the reproductive number of the disease in each group. Small differences in parameter values can change the best vaccination strategy from one focused on the most vulnerable individuals to one focused on the most transmissive individuals.
Conclusions
Given the limited amount of information about relevant parameters, we suggest that changes in vaccination strategy, while potentially promising, should be approached with caution. In particular, we find that, while switching vaccine to more active groups may protect vulnerable groups in many cases, switching too much vaccine, or switching vaccine under slightly different conditions, may lead to large increases in disease in the vulnerable group. This outcome is more likely when vaccine limitation is stringent, when mixing is highly structured, or when transmission levels are high.
Jonathan Dushoff and colleagues model the benefits of different vaccination strategies and suggest that small differences in how populations mix can change the best vaccination strategy from one focused on the most vulnerable individuals to one focused on the most transmissive individuals.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Every winter, millions of people take to their beds with influenza—a viral infection of the nose, throat, and airways that is transmitted in airborne droplets released by coughing and sneezing. Most people who catch flu recover within a few days, but some develop serious complications such as pneumonia, and in the US alone, about 36,000 people—mainly infants, elderly, and chronically ill individuals—die every year. To minimize the morbidity (illness) and mortality (death) associated with seasonal (epidemic) influenza, the World Health Organization recommends that these vulnerable people be vaccinated against influenza every autumn. Annual vaccination is necessary because flu viruses continually make small changes to the viral proteins that the immune system recognizes.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although infants and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to influenza, schoolchildren are more likely to spread the flu virus. Also, vaccination is more effective in schoolchildren than in elderly people. So could vaccination of schoolchildren be the best way to reduce influenza morbidity and mortality? Some Japanese and US data suggest that it might be, but policymakers need to know more about the likely effects of changing the current influenza vaccination strategy. They need to know in what circumstances the direct effects of vaccination (protection of vaccinated individuals from disease) outweigh its indirect effects (reduced infection in vulnerable individuals caused by the reduced spread of disease in the whole population) and when the opposite is true. In this study, the researchers have used mathematical modeling to investigate how vaccination affects the spread of diseases such as influenza for which a “core” group in the population spreads the disease and a distinct “vulnerable” group is sensitive to its effects.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed a mathematical model in which members of each group mixed mainly with their own group (assortative mixing) and used it to predict how changing the proportion of a limited amount of vaccine given to each group might affect disease spread under different conditions. For example, they report that in a population in which the two groups were very unlikely to mix and viral transmission was low, switching vaccine from the vulnerable group to the core group initially increased infections in the vulnerable group because fewer individuals were directly protected but, as more vaccine was allocated to the core group, fewer vulnerable people became infected because the size of the epidemic decreased. When viral transmission was high, vaccination of the vulnerable group was always best. However, when viral transmission was moderate, shifting vaccine from the vulnerable group first increased, then decreased infections in this group before increasing them again. This last change occurred when vaccination in the vulnerable group was so low that viral transmission was sufficient to maintain the epidemic within this group.
What Do These Findings Mean?
As with all mathematical modeling, the researchers' findings depend on the assumptions included in the model, many of which are based on limited information. The model also considers a population that contains only two groups, an unlikely situation in real life. Nevertheless, these findings indicate that in a population in which one group of people is mainly responsible for the spread of a disease and another is most vulnerable to its effects, the best vaccination strategy is very sensitive to how the groups mix and how well the disease spreads in each group. Small changes in these poorly understood parameters can change the optimal vaccination strategy from one that vaccinates vulnerable individuals to one that mainly vaccinates the people who spread the disease. Importantly, a beneficial change in strategy can become deleterious if taken too far, so policy makers need to approach potentially promising changes in vaccination policy cautiously. Finally, for influenza, the model supports the idea that using some vaccine stocks in schoolchildren might decrease morbidity and mortality among elderly people but suggests that—even if this turns out to be correct—if all the vaccine were given to schoolchildren, more old people might die. Thus, the most prudent policy would be to supplement rather than replace vaccination of the elderly with vaccination of children.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040174.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information about influenza for patients and professionals, including key facts about the flu vaccine (in English and Spanish)
World Health Organization, fact sheet on influenza and information on vaccination (in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese and Russian)
UK Health Protection Agency, information on seasonal influenza
MedlinePlus encyclopedia entries on influenza and the influenza vaccine (in English and Spanish)
Public disease mortality and morbidity data at the International Infectious Disease Data Archive (IIDDA)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040174
PMCID: PMC1872043  PMID: 17518515
21.  Safety and Allele-Specific Immunogenicity of a Malaria Vaccine in Malian Adults: Results of a Phase I Randomized Trial 
PLoS Clinical Trials  2006;1(7):e34.
Objectives:
The objectives were to evaluate the safety, reactogenicity, and allele-specific immunogenicity of the blood-stage malaria vaccine FMP1/AS02A in adults exposed to seasonal malaria and the impact of natural infection on vaccine-induced antibody levels.
Design:
We conducted a randomized, double-blind, controlled phase I clinical trial.
Setting:
Bandiagara, Mali, West Africa, is a rural town with intense seasonal transmission of Plasmodium falciparum malaria.
Participants:
Forty healthy, malaria-experienced Malian adults aged 18–55 y were enrolled.
Interventions:
The FMP1/AS02A malaria vaccine is a 42-kDa recombinant protein based on the carboxy-terminal end of merozoite surface protein-1 (MSP-142) from the 3D7 clone of P. falciparum, adjuvanted with AS02A. The control vaccine was a killed rabies virus vaccine (Imovax). Participants were randomized to receive either FMP1/AS02A or rabies vaccine at 0, 1, and 2 mo and were followed for 1 y.
Outcome Measures:
Solicited and unsolicited adverse events and allele-specific antibody responses to recombinant MSP-142 and its subunits derived from P. falciparum strains homologous and heterologous to the 3D7 vaccine strain were measured.
Results:
Transient local pain and swelling were more common in the malaria vaccine group than in the control group (11/20 versus 3/20 and 10/20 versus 6/20, respectively). MSP-142 antibody levels rose during the malaria transmission season in the control group, but were significantly higher in malaria vaccine recipients after the second immunization and remained higher after the third immunization relative both to baseline and to the control group. Immunization with the malaria vaccine was followed by significant increases in antibodies recognizing three diverse MSP-142 alleles and their subunits.
Conclusions:
FMP1/AS02A was well tolerated and highly immunogenic in adults exposed to intense seasonal malaria transmission and elicited immune responses to genetically diverse parasite clones. Anti-MSP-142 antibody levels followed a seasonal pattern that was significantly augmented and prolonged by the malaria vaccine.
Editorial Commentary
Background: In sub-Saharan Africa the burden of death and disease from malaria is particularly severe. Most affected are young children under the age of five, in whom natural immunity against the malaria parasite has not yet developed. There are not yet any approved vaccines that would reduce this burden, although many research groups are currently developing potential vaccines. One such candidate vaccine is FMP1/AS02A. This vaccine is designed to trigger an immune response against a protein (merozoite surface protein-1, or MSP-1) found on the surface of the infectious, blood-stage form of the malaria parasite. Early-stage clinical trials have already been performed in healthy people in the United States, who were not exposed to clinical malaria, and in Kenyan adults who are exposed to malaria throughout the year. These studies did not identify any safety concerns regarding the candidate vaccine, which meant that it could progress further in clinical testing. As part of this next stage, a group of researchers wanted to examine the safety and ability of the vaccine to boost immune responses in an area of sub-Saharan Africa where people are not exposed to malaria throughout the year, but rather only in the wet season. The trial reported here was carried out in northeast Mali, in which 40 adults received either the FMP1/AS02A vaccine or a rabies vaccine for comparison, just at the start of the malaria transmission season. The researchers primarily looked at safety outcomes, collecting data on certain specific signs or symptoms up to 8 d after immunization, other reported symptoms up to 31 d after immunization, and any serious adverse events during a follow-up period of 364 d after immunization. The researchers also examined antibody levels in the participants' blood against the MSP-1 protein.
What this trial shows: The researchers found that participants receiving the FMP1/AS02A vaccine had more immediate symptoms at the injection site (for example, pain or swelling) than the comparison group did. Other general symptoms, both solicited and unsolicited, such as headache, muscle aches, fever, and infections, were also more common in the malaria vaccine group than in the group receiving the rabies vaccine. There were two serious adverse events in the vaccine group, but these were not judged to be related to the vaccination. Antibody levels against the MSP-1 protein increased in both study groups through the course of the rainy season (when individuals would be likely exposed to bites from malaria-infected mosquitoes) and subsequently fell after the end of the malaria transmission season. However, participants receiving the vaccine had higher antibody responses at all timepoints measured; the differences were statistically significant at some timepoints, but not at others. Finally, the researchers looked at antibody reactions against three different variants of the MSP-1 protein in sera from participants receiving the candidate vaccine and found that the sera reacted similarly to all three variants.
Strengths and limitations: The study protocol followed established procedures for phase I clinical trials of this type, which allows the data to be compared across studies. Randomization procedures were appropriate, and steps were taken to blind participants in the trial, as well as those assessing outcomes, to the intervention participants received. A limitation of this study, which can apply to other phase I studies in general, is that small numbers of participants were recruited. Therefore, the trial was not powered to detect statistically significant differences between participant groups. It is also not clear whether the higher antibody levels seen in the participants receiving the FMP1/AS02A vaccine would be biologically significant (that is, act to prevent clinical malaria cases), a question that would need to be addressed in further trials.
Contribution to the evidence: The safety results from this study are similar to those from other trials and confirm that no safety concerns have thus far been identified regarding the FMP1/AS02A vaccine, which has now progressed to efficacy testing. This study was also conducted in a population exposed to seasonal malaria, whereas previous trials had been done among people exposed to malaria year-round. Finally, results from the trial also suggest that this vaccine induces antibodies that recognize genetically diverse forms of the vaccine antigen.
doi:10.1371/journal.pctr.0010034
PMCID: PMC1851722  PMID: 17124530
22.  Prophylactic and Therapeutic Efficacy of Human Monoclonal Antibodies against H5N1 Influenza 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(5):e178.
Background
New prophylactic and therapeutic strategies to combat human infections with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 viruses are needed. We generated neutralizing anti-H5N1 human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) and tested their efficacy for prophylaxis and therapy in a murine model of infection.
Methods and Findings
Using Epstein-Barr virus we immortalized memory B cells from Vietnamese adults who had recovered from infections with HPAI H5N1 viruses. Supernatants from B cell lines were screened in a virus neutralization assay. B cell lines secreting neutralizing antibodies were cloned and the mAbs purified. The cross-reactivity of these antibodies for different strains of H5N1 was tested in vitro by neutralization assays, and their prophylactic and therapeutic efficacy in vivo was tested in mice. In vitro, mAbs FLA3.14 and FLD20.19 neutralized both Clade I and Clade II H5N1 viruses, whilst FLA5.10 and FLD21.140 neutralized Clade I viruses only. In vivo, FLA3.14 and FLA5.10 conferred protection from lethality in mice challenged with A/Vietnam/1203/04 (H5N1) in a dose-dependent manner. mAb prophylaxis provided a statistically significant reduction in pulmonary virus titer, reduced associated inflammation in the lungs, and restricted extrapulmonary dissemination of the virus. Therapeutic doses of FLA3.14, FLA5.10, FLD20.19, and FLD21.140 provided robust protection from lethality at least up to 72 h postinfection with A/Vietnam/1203/04 (H5N1). mAbs FLA3.14, FLD21.140 and FLD20.19, but not FLA5.10, were also therapeutically active in vivo against the Clade II virus A/Indonesia/5/2005 (H5N1).
Conclusions
These studies provide proof of concept that fully human mAbs with neutralizing activity can be rapidly generated from the peripheral blood of convalescent patients and that these mAbs are effective for the prevention and treatment of H5N1 infection in a mouse model. A panel of neutralizing, cross-reactive mAbs might be useful for prophylaxis or adjunctive treatment of human cases of H5N1 influenza.
Cameron Simmons and colleagues provide proof of concept that human monoclonal antibodies with neutralizing activity can be rapidly generated from peripheral blood of convalescent patients and are effective in preventing and treating H5N1 infection in a mouse model.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Every year, millions of people catch influenza, a viral disease of the nose, throat, and airways. Although most recover, influenza outbreaks (epidemics) kill about half a million people annually. Epidemics occur because small but frequent changes in the viral proteins (antigens) to which the immune system responds mean that an immune response produced one year provides only partial protection against influenza the next year. Human flu viruses also occasionally appear that contain major antigenic changes. People have little or no immunity to such viruses (which often originate in animals or birds), so these viruses can start deadly pandemics—global epidemics. The Spanish flu pandemic in 1918/9, Asian flu in 1957, and Hong Kong flu in 1968 all killed millions. Experts believe that another pandemic is overdue and may be triggered by the avian H5N1 influenza virus—the name indicates that this bird virus carries type 5 hemagglutinin and type 1 neuraminidase, the two major flu antigens. H5N1, which rapidly kills infected birds, is now present in flocks around the world and, since 1997, it has caused 258 cases of human flu and 153 deaths. People have caught H5N1 through close contact with infected birds but, luckily, H5N1 rarely passes between people.
Why Was This Study Done?
H5N1 might acquire the ability to move between people and start a human influenza pandemic at any time. Some of the H5N1 viruses are resistant to the antiviral drugs used to treat flu and there will inevitably be a lag of some months between the emergence of a human pandemic H5N1 strain and the bulk production of a vaccine effective against it. Thus, new preventative and therapeutic strategies are needed to combat human infections with H5N1. One possibility is passive immunotherapy—treating people with antibodies (proteins that recognize antigens) that can stop H5N1 from infecting cells (so-called neutralizing antibodies). In this study, the researchers have generated neutralizing human monoclonal antibodies (laboratory-produced preparations that contain one type of human antibody) and tested their ability to halt viral growth in mice infected with H5N1.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Patients who have survived infection with H5N1 make neutralizing antibodies, so the researchers isolated and immortalized the immune cells making these antibodies from the patients' blood. They grew up each cell separately and purified the antibody that the cells made. These monoclonal antibodies were then tested for their ability to neutralize H5N1 and other flu viruses in the laboratory. The researchers identified several that neutralized the H5N1 strain with which the patients were originally infected and chose two for further study. In the test tube, the four antibodies neutralized closely related H5N1 viruses and an H5N1 virus from a different lineage (clade) that has also caused human disease, in addition to the original H5N1 virus, although with different efficacies. In mice, the antibodies provided protection from infection with the original virus when given a day before or one to three days after infection. Three antibodies also partly protected the mice against H5N1 from a different clade. Finally, the researchers showed that the antibodies protected mice by limiting viral replication, by lessening the deleterious effects of the virus in the lungs, and by stopping viral spread out of the lungs.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results indicate that passive immunotherapy with human monoclonal antibodies could help to combat avian H5N1 if (or when) it starts a human pandemic. Passive immunotherapy is already used to prevent infections with several other viruses. In addition, a crude form of the approach—early treatment of patients with plasma (the liquid portion of blood) from convalescent patients—halved the death rate during the Spanish flu pandemic. Large amounts of pure monoclonal antibodies can be relatively easily made for clinical use, and this study indicates that some monoclonal antibodies neutralize H5N1 viruses from different clades. The researchers sound a note of caution, however: Before passive immunotherapy can help to halt an H5N1 pandemic, they warn, the monoclonal antibodies will have to be tested to see whether they can neutralize not only all the currently circulating H5N1 viruses but also any emerging pandemic versions, which might be antigenically distinct.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040178.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information about influenza for patients and professionals including key facts about avian influenza
US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease feature on seasonal, avian, and pandemic flu
World Health Organization factsheet on influenza and information on avian influenza, including latest figures for confirmed human cases
UK Health Protection Agency information on seasonal, avian, and pandemic influenza
Wikipedia pages on passive immunity and monoclonal antibodies (note: Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040178
PMCID: PMC1880850  PMID: 17535101
23.  Prevention of Antigenically Drifted Influenza by Inactivated and Live Attenuated Vaccines 
The New England journal of medicine  2006;355(24):2513-2522.
BACKGROUND
The efficacy of influenza vaccines may decline during years when the circulating viruses have antigenically drifted from those included in the vaccine.
METHODS
We carried out a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of inactivated and live attenuated influenza vaccines in healthy adults during the 2004–2005 influenza season and estimated both absolute and relative efficacies.
RESULTS
A total of 1247 persons were vaccinated between October and December 2004. Influenza activity in Michigan began in January 2005 with the circulation of an antigenically drifted type A (H3N2) virus, the A/California/07/2004-like strain, and of type B viruses from two lineages. The absolute efficacy of the inactivated vaccine against both types of virus was 77% (95% confidence interval [CI], 37 to 92) as measured by isolating the virus in cell culture, 75% (95% CI, 42 to 90) as measured by either isolating the virus in cell culture or identifying it through real-time polymerase chain reaction, and 67% (95% CI, 16 to 87) as measured by either isolating the virus or observing a rise in the serum antibody titer. The absolute efficacies of the live attenuated vaccine were 57% (95% CI, −3 to 82), 48% (95% CI, −7 to 74), and 30% (95% CI, −57 to 67), respectively. The difference in efficacy between the two vaccines appeared to be related mainly to reduced protection of the live attenuated vaccine against type B viruses.
CONCLUSIONS
In the 2004–2005 season, in which most circulating viruses were dissimilar to those included in the vaccine, the inactivated vaccine was efficacious in preventing laboratory-confirmed symptomatic illnesses from influenza in healthy adults. The live attenuated vaccine also prevented influenza illnesses but was less efficacious. (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00133523.)
doi:10.1056/NEJMoa061850
PMCID: PMC2614682  PMID: 17167134
24.  The Effect of Age and Recent Influenza Vaccination History on the Immunogenicity and Efficacy of 2009–10 Seasonal Trivalent Inactivated Influenza Vaccination in Children 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59077.
Background
There is some evidence that annual vaccination of trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine (TIV) may lead to reduced vaccine immunogenicity but evidence is lacking on whether vaccine efficacy is affected by prior vaccination history. The efficacy of one dose of TIV in children 6–8 y of age against influenza B is uncertain. We examined whether immunogenicity and efficacy of influenza vaccination in school-age children varied by age and past vaccination history.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a randomized controlled trial of 2009–10 TIV. Influenza vaccination history in the two preceding years was recorded. Immunogenicity was assessed by comparison of HI titers before and one month after receipt of TIV/placebo. Subjects were followed up for 11 months with symptom diaries, and respiratory specimens were collected during acute respiratory illnesses to permit confirmation of influenza virus infections. We found that previous vaccination was associated with reduced antibody responses to TIV against seasonal A(H1N1) and A(H3N2) particularly in children 9–17 y of age, but increased antibody responses to the same lineage of influenza B virus in children 6–8 y of age. Serological responses to the influenza A vaccine viruses were high regardless of vaccination history. One dose of TIV appeared to be efficacious against confirmed influenza B in children 6–8 y of age regardless of vaccination history.
Conclusions
Prior vaccination was associated with lower antibody titer rises following vaccination against seasonal influenza A vaccine viruses, but higher responses to influenza B among individuals primed with viruses from the same lineage in preceding years. In a year in which influenza B virus predominated, no impact of prior vaccination history was observed on vaccine efficacy against influenza B. The strains that circulated in the year of study did not allow us to study the effect of prior vaccination on vaccine efficacy against influenza A.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059077
PMCID: PMC3595209  PMID: 23554974
25.  Efficacy and clinical effectiveness of influenza vaccines in HIV-infected individuals: a meta-analysis 
Background
Though influenza vaccines are the cornerstone of medical interventions aimed at protecting individuals against epidemic influenza, their effectiveness in HIV infected individuals is not certain. With the recent detection of influenza strains in countries with high HIV prevalence rates, we aimed at evaluating the current evidence on the efficacy and clinical effectiveness of influenza vaccines in HIV-infected individuals.
Methods
We used electronic databases to identify studies assessing efficacy or effectiveness of influenza vaccines in HIV patients. We included studies that compared the incidence of culture- or serologically-confirmed influenza or clinical influenza-like illness in vaccinated to unvaccinated HIV infected individuals. Characteristics of study participants were independently abstracted and the risk difference (RD), the number needed to vaccinate to prevent one case of influenza (NNV) and the vaccine effectiveness (VE) computed.
Results
We identified six studies that assessed the incidence of influenza in vaccinated HIV-infected subjects. Four of these studies compared the incidence in vaccinated versus unvaccinated subjects. These involved a total of 646 HIV-infected subjects. In all the 4 studies, the incidence of influenza was lower in the vaccinated compared to unvaccinated subjects with RD ranging from -0.48 (95% CI: -0.63, -0.34) to -0.15 (95% CI: -0.25, 0.05); between 3 and 7 people would need to be vaccinated to prevent one case of influenza. Vaccine effectiveness ranged from 27% to 78%. A random effects model was used to obtain a summary RD of -0.27 (95%CI: -0.42, -0.11). There was no evidence of publication bias.
Conclusion
Current evidence, though limited, suggests that influenza vaccines are moderately effective in reducing the incidence of influenza in HIV-infected individuals. With the threat of a global influenza pandemic, there is an urgent need to evaluate the effectiveness of influenza vaccines in trials with a larger number of representative HIV-infected persons.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-6-138
PMCID: PMC1574329  PMID: 16965629

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