According to The Asahi Shimbun, Japanese scientists have unwrapped their crystal balls (more likely microscopes) and predicted what type of flu-virus mutations are likely next year.
The new technology means they have more chance of coming up with a better vaccine to fit the type of influenza.
What type of flu virus should be used to create the seasonal flu vaccine for the year is predicted by researchers and then recommended by the World Health Organization.
When the virus used for the vaccine is different from the one that prevails that year, the counteragent fails to prevent a flu epidemic.
The scientists that made the key breakthrough were primarily from the University of Tokyo.
The team--led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a virus professor at the university’s Institute of Medical Science--developed a new method to predict what type of flu will likely be prevalent based on possible virus mutations.
The researchers first artificially created various flu viruses and conducted experiments to find out which virus is more likely to become prevalent among humans. Then they looked for influenza viruses in the natural world that are similar to the artificial one that they confirmed is most likely to prevail.
If viruses with similar characteristics are found, that means few people have antibodies against such a flu virus and therefore that type will likely become prevalent in the future.
The team surveyed a type A virus, known as Hong Kong flu, which prevailed in 2014 and 2015, and discovered the new technology can predict mutations in that type of influenza.
Flu viruses frequently undergo mutations and there are variations even in influenza type A and B viruses.
The findings were published in the online edition of the British scientific journal Nature Microbiology on May 23 2016.
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