4 May 1998

Sanitary Snot For Kids Who Snort

It's not very pretty, but the snot most kids love to blow on their sleeves or wipe on the furniture may hide the key to protecting them against 'flu. According to a study presented at the 1998 Society for Paediatric Research Annual Meeting, a snortable vaccine could develop anti-influenza antibodies in the mucousy place where lurgies tend to enter the body - the nose.

"Traditionally, antibodies measured in the blood are used as a marker for protection," says Thomas Boyce, fellow in Paediatric Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre. "However, there is some evidence that antibodies in the nose ... are more important for protection."

The findings could mean the beginning of the end for the dreaded 'flu jab. Instead, a new nasal spray could vaccinate children with just a few easy puffs. Snot-tests on 19 children have already shown that those who snorted were likely to produce nasal secretions swarming with antibodies.

"We hope these antibodies will stop the virus in its tracks, before it has a chance to spread to the rest of the respiratory system," says Boyce. Influenza epidemics are a yearly event, leading to wintertime respiratory illness in people throughout the world. Infection rates are particularly high in young children, sometimes exceeding 40 per cent.