Universal Influenza Vaccine: Final Summary

25 pages plus bibliography and 47 sources (!!!) later, I have completed my paper! This research project has definitely been a learning experience for me, and in some ways it’s been very humbling as well. I had initially planned to produce a comprehensive review of all currently ongoing attempts to create a universal influenza vaccine, going into specific, biological detail about each method. I had intended to provide a brief overview of the influenza virus itself and the current seasonal influenza vaccine at the beginning of my paper, but to spend most of my time reviewing efforts to create a universal influenza vaccine, analyzing the pros and cons of each, and reaching a conclusion on how soon, if ever, a widely available universal influenza vaccine could reach the U.S. market. Unfortunately, I did not realize how ambitious this project truly was!  I vastly underestimated just how complicated the influenza virus is and how many current influenza vaccine types, both seasonal and universal, are on the market or in the works. I also didn’t fully realize how little I understood the makeup of the influenza virus, and how these many vaccines trigger the immune response in the human body, and how all of these different vaccines are created…etc. As a result, I spent way more time and energy than I had initially budgeted just getting to a point where I had the understanding necessary to research the many attempts to create a universal influenza vaccine. Since I spent so much time researching what I had previously thought of as simply “introductory material”, my paper turned into less of a detailed review of the possibility of a universal influenza vaccine and into more of a general overview of influenza and current and developing influenza vaccines. I was not equipped to produce as scientifically detailed a research paper as I had previously hoped, but that’s okay! This experience was immensely valuable nonetheless, because I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the influenza virus (a subject that has interested me for a while but I’ve never before had an excuse to really delve into) and the strategy of creating vaccines (an area that I hope to devote my career to). Even though my paper does not represent the sum total of what there is to know about influenza and a universal vaccine, I am proud of the work I have accomplished. I hope to use this knowledge I have gained through my Monroe project as a springboard for future, more detailed research about a universal influenza vaccine, now that I have the necessary underlying knowledge. Perhaps in one of my classes or during next summer I can pick one or a few of the many ongoing strategies to create a universal influenza vaccine and research it more in detail. I am really grateful for this experience because I got to sink my teeth into a topic that has always interested me, and I hope to continue this vein of work in the future!

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Universal Influenza Vaccine: Update 2

At this point, I have just about completed my research and I am beginning to convert my detailed outline into essay form. Hopefully I will have a finished product ready to submit in the next few days!

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Universal Influenza Vaccine: Update 1

Over the past week and a half, I have been researching basic facts about the influenza virus and the burden of influenza on the U.S. healthcare system, with an emphasis on the 2017-2018 influenza season. I have also begun to delve into the structure of the influenza virus, though this has been more challenging than I initially expected. Originally, I had ambitiously planned to extensively cover the detailed structure of the most prevalent influenza virus subtypes and lineages circulating in the United States human population (namely, the A(H3N2) and A(H1N1) influenza A subtypes and the B/Yamagata and B/Victoria influenza B lineages) before launching into my comparison of the various efforts to create a universal flu vaccine. However, I did not anticipate how complicated this structural information truly is and how large the gap is between my current comprehension level and the comprehension level necessary to understand the many scientific articles written about this subject. As a result, my research has been progressing much more slowly than I had hoped. Nevertheless, I am persevering through all of the highly technical language and working my way slowly but surely through the literature. Hopefully, I will be able to get into researching attempts to create a universal flu vaccine and begin my analysis of these efforts in the coming days. As I research, I have been creating a detailed outline of my paper so that once I have finished the research portion of my project, it should be fairly easy (fingers crossed!) to turn my outline into a cohesive, essay format.

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Universal Influenza Vaccine: On the Horizon or Out of Reach?

I intend to conduct research on current efforts to create a universal influenza vaccine. Recently, there has been a push to design a vaccine that targets all influenza subtypes so the vaccine would only have to be administered once, instead of once every year, and provide broad protection against all flu strains and subtypes, instead of only the three or four subtypes that scientists predict will be prevalent each influenza season. This universal vaccine could also provide protection against animal influenza strains that have the potential to spill over into the human population and reach pandemic status.

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