In a new series of articles, experts in immunology, virology, epidemiology, and vaccine development detail efforts to improve seasonal influenza vaccines and ultimately develop a universal influenza vaccine. The 15 articles are part of a supplement in the April 15 issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases. Researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and scientists supported by NIAID, are among the contributing authors. Barney S. Graham, M.D., Ph.D., deputy director of NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC), and Michelle C. Crank, M.D., head of the Translational Sciences Core in the VRC’s Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory, edited the supplement.
In an introductory article, NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. and Catharine I. Paules, M.D., an infectious disease physician at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, underscore the public health need for improved influenza vaccines, noting the approximately 291,000 to nearly 646,000 deaths worldwide each year due to seasonal influenza. They also discuss the possibility of another influenza pandemic, which occurs when a novel influenza virus to which most people do not have immunity arises unpredictably. The 1918 influenza pandemic caused an estimated 50 million to 100 million deaths.