Universal flu vaccine could be created in five years
Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2013 00:10
A universal flu vaccine could be developed in five years, according to an article in Nature Medicine.
Scientists said the answer was found in the blood of the people who beat the 2009 pandemic without being sick.
"New strains of flu are continuously emerging, some of which are deadly, and so the Holy Grail is to create a universal vaccine that would be effective against all strains of flu," Professor Ajit Lalvani, chair of infectious diseases at the National Heart and Lung Institute in Imperial College London said.
Lalvani and his colleagues collected blood from 340 volunteers during the 2009 swine flu pandemic.
The donors were asked in emails sent every three weeks to report any symptoms they experienced for a two-year period after the pandemic. If symptoms surfaced they were asked to mail a nasal swab to the lab where the scientist could confirm if the person had the flu.
The scientist then discovered that people who had a type of virus-killing immune cell were more likely to not have a serious illness during the pandemic. The finding meant that the vaccine would be designed to increase the virus-killing cell levels and could prevent flu viruses than getting a regular flu shot.
“This could curb seasonal flu annually and protect people against future pandemics," Lalvani said.
Lalvani said the vaccine should be able to effectively protect people from the continuously rising new strains of the flu virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the normal flu shot protects against three or four influenza viruses that research says will be common during the upcoming season.
They also say that everyone at least six-months-old should get a flu vaccine this season. It is also important for people who are at high risk of developing serious complications, according to the CDC. People with medical conditions, women who are pregnant, children younger than five, and people who are older than 65 should be vaccinated.
“Our findings highlight the benefits that would accrue to the nearly 18 million college and university students in this country if they were vaccinated," the VA Medical Center study authors wrote.
Each year nine to 20 percent of US college and university students get the flu each year, according to The VA Medical Center and The University of Minnesota.
However, the CDC said that people who should not be vaccinated are those who have a moderate to severe illness even without a fever and have history of becoming severely ill after receiving influenza vaccine.