A new computer program is decoding influenza and could unravel other viruses as well. The research could save millions of people around the world from death by not only influenza, but eventually other diseases as well.
Scientists from Stony Brook University in New York have developed a computer program that solves a genetic version of the “traveling salesmen problem.” Using the program, the researchers can create a live but greatly weakened vaccine that should provide greater protection against more strains of the flu.
“Live vaccines are better to provoke an immune response; they act like a real virus,” said Steffen Mueller, a scientist at Stony Brook University in New York and co-author of a recent Nature Biotechnology paper. “But there is always a chance that the virus could revert back to its wild form and infect a person. With our new method, that seems impossible.”
There are essentially two ways to vaccinate against influenza. The first method relies on injecting large doses of a dead virus. The second method involves spraying a live, but crippled, virus through the nose.