Caterpillars may be more effective than chicken eggs as a vehicle for flu vaccines, according to a new study that evaluated the efficacy of a newer, DNA-based flu vaccine.
The study, “ was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and revealed that a vaccine grown in caterpillar cells was 30% more effective at preventing influenza infection than standard vaccines grown in chicken eggs.
The study investigated more than 9,000 patients who were given either the caterpillar-grown vaccine (FluBlok) or a standard flu vaccine. Lisa M. Dunkle, MD, chief medical officer at vaccine developer Protein Sciences Corp., and one of the report authors, told Medical Economics the vaccine is likely more effective because while chickens and their eggs are a good host to vaccine growth due to their susceptibility to the viruses, the viruses also tend to mutate while growing in the eggs. FluBlok is made through genetic engineering, with a piece of human flu virus grafted onto an insect virus and grown in a type of caterpillar called the fall army worm, or Spodoptera frugiperd. Researchers believe this host may result in fewer mutations of the antigen in the vaccine and a higher dosage of those antigens.
Dunkle said Flublok is made in a way that produces a pure influenza hemagglutinin protein that is an exact genetic match to the vaccine strain selected each season by WHO and FDA.
“Each Flublok dose contains three times the quantity of active ingredient (hemagglutinin) as standard dose inactivated vaccines and is the only higher-dose flu vaccine that is a quadrivalent product,” Dunkle said.