Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Emily Singer

A View from Emily Singer

Fending Off the Flu

If H1N1 vaccine supplies fall short, people may have to turn to supplements, statins, and laser-coupled vaccination.

  • October 28, 2009

A number of common supplements and drugs can boost the immune system’s ability to ward off the flu and reduce symptoms once you have it, said Jeffrey Gelfand, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital at the CIMIT (Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology) Innovation Congress this morning in Boston. Gelfand suggested that in the absence of adequate supplies of vaccine against the H1N1 flu strain, we’ll need to turn to less conventional measures. Clinical research shows that L-theanine, which is found in tea, and quercetin, a plant polyphenol, can reduce chances of getting an upper respiratory infection, he said. Both are available at stores that sell vitamin supplements.

Statins, the cholesterol-lowering blockbuster drug, can reduce symptoms of the flu, especially in younger people, the group hardest hit by H1N1. The drugs, many of which are available generically, reduce the “cytokine storm”–part of the immune reaction that occurs during sepsis and influenza infection. “I believe this could significantly reduce mortality,” said Gelfand.

Gelfand also said that changing our approach to vaccination could help extend limited vaccine supplies. One method currently under study is delivering vaccines to the skin, rather than to the muscle, as is done with current injections. Directly targeting the skin enhances the response from immune cells in the skin. His team is testing a laser-coupled injection system, in which a precise dose of laser light is used to briefly irritate the skin, attracting the target immune cells even more effectively. Initial studies show that this approach generates the same antibody response with only 20 percent of the amount of vaccine.

Couldn't make it to EmTech Next to meet experts in AI, Robotics and the Economy?

Go behind the scenes and check out our video
More from Rewriting Life

Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.