Universal flu jab moves one step closer – paving way for end to yearly vaccinations
A new flu jab is being trialled that could protect against all strains of the virus – eliminating the need for seasonal vaccines and helping protect against potential future pandemics.
A universal flu jab is ready to be tested on humans and could put an end to people needing annual flu vaccinations.
In a bad flu year, around 30,000 people in the UK die from flu, or from pneumonia, which can be a complication of flu.
Instead, every year before flu season starts, experts predict which strains are likely to be more common and select three or four to be included in the next seasonal flu vaccine.
Manufacturers then need to make and distribute the vaccine – and in the meantime the virus may change, potentially making the vaccine less effective.
A universal jab that covers all flu strains could eliminate these stages and potential problems.
mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies.
The new universal flu vaccine uses a specific portion of a flu protein, hemagglutinin (HA), to produce a broad immune response.
While one portion of the HA protein, known as the head, tends to change as the flu virus spreads and evolves, a more stable portion – the stem – evolves very slowly and is similar across many different types of the virus.
By using the HA stem as the basis for a vaccine, researchers hope to induce long-term immunity against a broad range of flu virus types.
Volunteers for the clinical trial in the US are being enrolled at the Vaccine Research Centre run by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
The trial will test different doses of the vaccine to determine the optimum dose, which will then be tested again.
The study will also include a group of people who will get the normal seasonal flu vaccine.
Acting NIAID director Hugh Auchincloss said a universal vaccine would be a “major public health achievement”.
As well as potentially removing the need for yearly jabs, it has the potential to avert a possible future pandemic.
“A universal flu vaccine could serve as an important line of defence against the spread of a future flu pandemic,” he said.
Source: Sky Technology