Universal flu vaccine on its way

One-shot flu vaccine could lower risk of pandemic.

From the Canadian Healthcare Network

Published on October 12, 2016 for canadianhealthcarenetwork.ca


Teams of scientists in Canada, the U.K., Australia and the U.S. are working on a universal flu vaccine that would offer lifetime protection against the influenza virus.

It’s hoped that a one-shot vaccine will encourage more people to be vaccinated and reduce the risk of a flu pandemic.

The effectiveness of the seasonal flu shot depends on matching the virus strain in the vaccine with the strain circulating in society at any given time. This hit or miss approach offers variable degrees of protection from year to year and influenza currently kills between 250,000 to 500,000 people worldwide annually.

But, unlike seasonal vaccines, the universal vaccine will still be effective even when the virus mutates, Matthew Miller, an assistant professor in the department of biochemistry and biomedical sciences at McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Medicine, told CBC news.

Working with other scientists, Miller’s research focuses on a group of antibodies in the human body that can be triggered to fight all strains of flu. Miller explained to CBC that these antibodies “stick to the surface of infected cells and call in other cells of your immune system to kill the virus.” This is similar to the naturally-occurring process where white cells surround a virus and kill it.

The universal vaccine “targets an area of the virus that is the same among all types of flus basically, even ones that we’ve thought could never infect humans before so it’s not susceptible to the virus changing,” Miller added.

An effective universal vaccine is already developed and the next stage is clinical trials with support from pharmaceutical companies and government regulators. The new vaccine could be on the market in five to 10 years.


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