Annual flu epidemics cause millions of cases of severe illness and up to half a million deaths every year around the world, despite widespread vaccination programs. A study published by Cell Press on September 11th in Immunity reveals that gut microbes play an important role in stimulating protective immune responses to the seasonal flu vaccine in mice, suggesting that differences in the composition of gut microbes in different populations may impact vaccine immunity. The study paves the way for global public health strategies to improve the effectiveness of the flu vaccine.
"Our findings raise the possibility that antibiotic treatment prior to or during vaccination may impact immunity," says senior study author Bali Pulendran of the Emory Vaccine Research Center. "Another potential implication of our study is that we may be able to manipulate gut microbes in order to improve immune responses to the vaccine."
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