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Dr Ryan Thwaites

Institute: Imperial College London

Functional characterisation of mucosal antibodies against influenza (MUC-AB)

During a viral chest infection, our bodies produce antibodies to combat the virus. These antibodies also help to prevent re-infection by the same virus. Antibodies are present in our blood but also in our lungs and nose (called mucosal surfaces) where these infections occur.

Nasal spray
A nasal spray will be used to deliver the flu vaccine
Image: By robin_24 via Wikimedia Commons 

Vaccines make use of this response to produce antibodies, which protect against harmful infections. Most vaccine studies look at production of antibodies in the blood, but this might not represent their levels at the mucosal surfaces where protection is needed. Vaccines that produce more effective antibodies at mucosal surfaces might be better at preventing infection.

This study will involve giving volunteers a flu vaccine via a nasal spray. This vaccine causes a very mild infection, often with no symptoms. We will measure antibody levels in the nose and lungs before and after giving the flu vaccine. We will then look at how well these antibodies work and if there are differences between the nose, lungs and the blood. Finally, we will compare the antibodies made in response to the nasal spray vaccine with an injectable vaccine. This will tell us the difference between antibodies made in response to different vaccine types.

This project will enable us to study the antibody response at mucosal surfaces and understand how this might help to improve vaccines.

More about Dr Thwaites here.

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