Flu Shot Blues

Each year, thousands of Americans receive flu shots, hoping to avoid the sniffles, stuffy head, fever, body aches and general misery that comes our way with annual migration of the flu virus. But the shots don't always work. Government agencies sometimes don't include the right viral strains in the vaccines. The elderly often don't develop an adequate immune response from the shot. And children, who usually give the flu to mom and dad, don't even get inoculated because three or four shots are needed to achieve immunity.

One potential solution is to develop a vaccine from live virus, which would have more potency than the "killed virus" vaccines currently used. M. Louise Herlocher, a researcher at the University of Michigan, used the CRAY Y-MP at Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center to elucidate the nooks and crannies of the complexly folded structure of a live flu virus, and her results for the first time indicate that these folds may be a factor in how the virus reproduces inside human cells.

Researchers: M. Louise Herlocher, University of Michigan and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Hardware: CRAY Y-MP
Software: User developed code
Keywords: flu, virus, sequence analysis, mutations, vaccine, protein, influenza, transmission, ribonucleic acid (RNA), folding, genes.

Related Material on the Web:
Projects in Scientific Computing, PSC's annual research report.

References, Acknowledgements & Credits