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03 Sep 2019

Doherty Institute PhD student wins Best Oral Presentation in Public Health at Options X

Doherty Institute PhD student Maria Auladell won Best Oral Presentation in Public Health at the recent Options X for the Control of Influenza Conference in Singapore.

Having been selected to speak from a large pool of abstracts, Dr Auladell won the prize that was supported by Cidara Therapeutics and the Asia Pacific Alliance for Control of Influenza (APACI).

Options X is the largest international conference exclusively focusing on influenza preventions, control and treatment including seasonal influenza and pandemic preparedness.

Co-supervised by Dr Annette Fox from the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza and Professor Katherine Kedzierska, and Dr Oanh Nguyen from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Dr Auladell’s presented on her work looking at how the history of prior influenza A infections affects the magnitude and breadth of influenza A/H3N2-specific antibodies induced by the current influenza vaccination.

“This work is of key importance as vaccine effectiveness against A/H3N2 viruses can be poor. Additionally, influenza vaccines need to be updated frequently due to viral evolution, which has been particularly rapid among A/H3N2 viruses; and in-turn repeated vaccination has been associated with attenuated vaccine effectiveness,” Dr Auladell said.

“It is thought that memory B cell responses could become focused on limited regions of the virus when successive vaccine strains are similar, thus attenuating protection against more distinct epidemic strain differs.

“It was however unclear whether B cell memory induced by infection could also focus vaccine responses.”

Dr Auladell looked at 100 influenza vaccine-naïve adults from a Vietnam cohort who had participated in active influenza surveillance since 2007, who received the vaccine in 2016.

“Our results showed that prior infection was associated with faster and better-maintained titre rises against future A/H3N2 strains,” she said.

“This suggests that infection induces a much broader B cell response than vaccination, encompassing regions present in past and future A/H3N2 viruses.”

Supervisor, Dr Annette Fox said Dr Auladell’s presentation was deserving of the Best Oral Presentation at Options X, in what was a very competitive field.

“Knowledge derived from Maria’s PhD research will contribute more generally to understanding how human antibodies and B cells respond to constantly evolving RNA viruses, like influenza, and as a consequence contribute to the design and/or vaccination policy of seasonal influenza vaccines,” Dr Annette Fox said.

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