Friday, July 23, 2010

Flu Simulation

XIAN, CHINA - NOVEMBER 9:  A medical worker pr...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

It's tricky to make a good flu vaccine. Influenza is a family of viruses, which has relatively few parts needed to function, and a vaccine needs to be a reasonably good simulacrum of a bacteria or virus to work right, and yet the vaccine must be weakened or killed, otherwise it's just an infection. What's a virologist to do?
Discovery news reports that computer simulations of viral biology, plus gene-sequencing and cloning, have produced a really really wussy version of the flu. Injected with it, your body overcomes it easily, and learns from the experience how to beat much tougher wild flus. Kind of like smacking around Colonel Klink to learn to fight Nazi Germany. (Biology is strange like that.)
This is a welcome relief, as in recent years flu vaccines have been hard to come by, as researchers would need to prepare huge volumes of live viruses and kill them. Now, they need only breed a smaller amount of wuss-flu, and parcel it out. People in desperate need of flu vaccines breathe a sigh of relief.
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