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Flu test could cut vaccine workload

Nearly half of all at-risk patients have pre-existing resistance to flu because of previous vaccination, new research suggests.

Identifying them with a simple serological test would highlight those who do not need further vaccination, the study concluded.

It found 40% of patients were already capable of mounting an effective immune system response to flu virus infection because of their history of vaccination.

Patients who received the vaccine in successive years were better protected than if given a vaccination in a single year.

The study of 750 patients in general practice showed that at-risk patients vaccinated against flu over five, four, three and two years grew more immune to the disease as the years went by and were more responsive to the vaccine compared with a single vaccination.

The study, conducted by the West Scotland Specialist Virology Centre and presented at the European Congress of Virology, questioned the necessity of giving flu vaccine to individuals with a pre-existing resistance.

Dr Venkat Sivaprakasam, lead researcher at the West Scotland Specialist Virology Centre, explained: 'We observed some 40% of patients had a pre-existing resistance or immunogenicity to flu vaccines.

'So if there is a test that can separate the responders from the non-responders, we could administer the vaccines to the people that need them most.'

GP flu specialists said the research backed current GP efforts to protect those at-risk patients every year.

Dr Douglas Fleming, flu vaccination spokesperson for the RCGP, said: 'In this country there is an uptake of vaccines of around 65-70%. This is a reminder that the maximum benefit to at-risk patients is when influenza vaccination is given on an annual basis.'

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