Do we finally know how vaccines work?

Vaccines work well because of an adjuvant. The adjuvant boosts immunity but physicians did not know how it worked until now. The Economist reports (“A shot in the dark not more“) that Stephanie Eisenbarth, Richard Flavell an co-authors have discovered that the adjuvant “works by stimulating bits of the immune system called NOD-like receptors.”

Why is this discovery important?

The value of that is shown by another piece of news. This week GlaxoSmithKline, a big British drug company, won the European Union’s approval for a ‘pre-pandemic’ vaccine that promises protection against multiple strains of bird flu. This vaccine depends, according to Emmanuel Hanon, who helped develop it, on an oil-in-water-emulsion adjuvant so good that only a twentieth of the normal amount of antigen is needed. So how does this amazing adjuvant work? Dr Hanon admits that his team does not actually know.