Influenza viruses cause annual seasonal epidemics and pandemics at irregular intervals. Several cases of human infections with avian and swine influenza viruses have been detected recently, warranting enhanced surveillance and the development of more effective countermeasures to address the pandemic potential of these viruses. The most effective countermeasure against influenza virus infection is the use of prophylactic vaccines. However, vaccines that are currently in use for seasonal influenza viruses have to be re-formulated and re-administered in a cumbersome process every year due to the antigenic drift of the virus. Furthermore, current seasonal vaccines are ineffective against novel pandemic strains. This paper reviews zoonotic influenza viruses with pandemic potential and technological advances towards better vaccines that induce broad and long lasting protection from influenza virus infection. Recent efforts have focused on the development of broadly protective/universal influenza virus vaccines that can provide immunity against drifted seasonal influenza virus strains but also against potential pandemic viruses.
Keywords: Avian influenza; Heterosubtypic immunity; Pandemic influenza; Universal influenza virus vaccine; Zoonotic influenza.
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