Local experts have come up with a single vaccine to simultaneously combat two of the world’s most deadly respiratory diseases.

The researchers say the single vaccination will overcome the limitations of current influenza and pneumococcal vaccines used around the world.

A big breakthrough came when a team at the University of Adelaide realised their new Influenza A virus vaccine under development (based on inactivated whole influenza virus) induces enhanced cross-protective immunity to different influenza strains, when it is co-administrated with the new class of pneumococcal vaccine.

They showed the enhancement in immunity is associated with a direct physical interaction between the virus and the bacterium.

Current influenza vaccines target surface molecules that are affected by mutations and so an annual update is required to match newly emerging viruses.

Existing pneumococcal vaccines provide longer lasting protection, but cover only a minority of disease-causing strains.

The researchers say there is a clear need for better vaccines capable of providing universal protection.

“Influenza infection predisposes patients to severe pneumococcal pneumonia, with very high mortality rates,” says lead researcher Dr Mohammed Alsharifi.

“Despite this well-known synergism, current vaccination strategies target the individual pathogens.

“We’re investigating combining our novel influenza and pneumococcal vaccines into a single vaccination approach and have demonstrated a highly significant enhancement of immune responses against diverse subtypes of influenza.”

The team has shown a similar boost in efficacy of their pneumococcal vaccine when co-administered with the flu vaccine, so there is bi-directional enhancement of pathogen-specific immunity.

“Our findings challenge an age-old immunological dogma about mixing viral and bacterial vaccines in a single injection,” says Dr Alsharifi.

More information is available here.