Universal Flu Vaccine Underway, Scientists Suggest

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Flu Vaccine
Universal Flu Vaccine – Photo credit: The Economic Times

A new research has revealed that an experimental flu vaccine that targets all known strains of the flu virus might give wide protection against illness.

The Lead Author, Scott Hensley, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues, published their findings in the journal Science.

According to the findings, the experimental flu vaccine relies on mRNA just like the COVID vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

The vaccine although still in early stages, having only been tested in mice and ferrets, gives vital evidence that a single injection may be used to protect against an entire family of viruses. If the vaccination is successful in humans, the strategy might be used   for other viral families, possibly including the coronavirus.

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“There’s a real need for new influenza vaccines to provide protection against pandemic threats that are out there.

“If there’s a new influenza pandemic tomorrow, if we had a vaccine like this that was widely employed before that pandemic, we might not have to shut everything down,” Hensley said.

The vaccine would not replace annual flu injections, but it would give protection against serious illness and death from possible pandemic threats.

The present influenza vaccinations, according to the researchers, protect against seasonal flu but offer little protection against a novel strain that may emerge as a pandemic hazard.

For years, researchers have worked to develop a vaccination that would expose kids to every form of the flu they may possibly come in contact with in the future. However, the complexities of the flu virus and technical barriers have limited the study.

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According to the researchers, the new vaccination produced substantial levels of antibodies to each of the 20 flu subtypes in ferrets and mice. This result was both surprising and encouraging, according to various specialists.

If the vaccine behaves similarly in people, “We’ll have a more broad coverage of influenza viruses — not only those that are circulating, but those that might spill over from the animal reservoir that might cause the next pandemic,” Alyson Kelvin, a vaccinologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, said.

The promising results from the animal tests have prompted researchers to move forward with human clinical trials. If researchers are successful in developing a universal flu vaccine that is effective in humans, the same approach could be applied to vaccines for other viruses down the line, including the coronavirus.

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