Clinical trial to investigate gut bacteria and response to seasonal ‘flu shot gets green light

10 December 2015, Gut Health

In 2015 more than 1.2 million influenza vaccinations were administered in New Zealand. Vulnerable people such as older individuals, young children, pregnant women, and people with health conditions are at a higher risk of developing serious complications from influenza, so it is advisable to have a ‘flu shot  - as it’s more commonly called.

But how well people respond to the vaccination is variable. Some people’s adaptive immune system responds well and they develop a memory for strains of flu that they have not yet met, while others have a poorer response.

Dr Liz Forbes-Blom

Dr Liz Forbes-Blom and her team will conduct a six-month study starting in April 2016 with adults to examine if an individual’s gut bacterial community type has an effect on their immune systems’ response the seasonal flu vaccine. Followers of Malaghan Institute research will be aware of the international interest in gut microbiota. Everyone has bacteria living in their gut, but the types and corresponding amounts of these bacteria can vary from person to person. Recent research has shown that individuals can be grouped into four different categories (known as ‘Stool Community Types’) based on what bacteria are present in their gut. Even though the bacterial population in your gut is the most stable, it can be influenced by a number of different lifestyle factors including your diet, antibiotic use, stress and where you live.

This study could open up possibilities for someone to consume a high-value nutrition product to change their ‘stool community group’ from one type to another, with the aim of improving their immune response.