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Virol J. 2010 Nov 30;7:351. doi: 10.1186/1743-422X-7-351.

Conserved epitopes of influenza A virus inducing protective immunity and their prospects for universal vaccine development.

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Institute of Virology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Dúbravská cesta 9, 845 05 Bratislava, Slovak Republic.


Influenza A viruses belong to the best studied viruses, however no effective prevention against influenza infection has been developed. The emerging of still new escape variants of influenza A viruses causing epidemics and periodic worldwide pandemics represents a threat for human population. Therefore, current, hot task of influenza virus research is to look for a way how to get us closer to a universal vaccine. Combination of chosen conserved antigens inducing cross-protective antibody response with epitopes activating also cross-protective cytotoxic T-cells would offer an attractive strategy for improving protection against drift variants of seasonal influenza viruses and reduces the impact of future pandemic strains. Antigenically conserved fusion-active subunit of hemagglutinin (HA2 gp) and ectodomain of matrix protein 2 (eM2) are promising candidates for preparation of broadly protective HA2- or eM2-based vaccine that may aid in pandemic preparedness. Overall protective effect could be achieved by contribution of epitopes recognized by cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTL) that have been studied extensively to reach much broader control of influenza infection. In this review we present the state-of-art in this field. We describe known adaptive immune mechanisms mediated by influenza specific B- and T-cells involved in the anti-influenza immune defense together with the contribution of innate immunity. We discuss the mechanisms of neutralization of influenza infection mediated by antibodies, the role of CTL in viral elimination and new approaches to develop epitope based vaccine inducing cross-protective influenza virus-specific immune response.

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