Influenza viral neuraminidase: the forgotten antigen

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Influenza is the most common cause of vaccine-preventable morbidity and mortality despite the availability of the conventional trivalent inactivated vaccine and the live-attenuated influenza vaccine. These vaccines induce an immunity dominated by the response to hemagglutinin (HA) and are most effective when there is sufficient antigenic relatedness between the vaccine strain and the HA of the circulating wild-type virus. Vaccine strategies against influenza may benefit from inclusion of other viral antigens in addition to HA. Epidemiologic evidence and studies in animals and humans indicate that anti-neuraminidase (NA) immunity will provide protection against severe illness or death in the event of a significant antigenic change in the HA component of the vaccine. However, there is little NA immunity induced by trivalent inactivated vaccine and live-attenuated influenza vaccine. The quantity of NA in influenza vaccines is not standardized and varies significantly among manufacturers, production lots and tested strains. The activity and stability of the NA enzyme is influenced by concentration of divalent cations. If immunity against NA is desirable, a better understanding of how the enzymatic properties affect the immunogenicity is needed.

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