Universal Flu Vaccine That Protects Against All Virus Strains Is Within Reach Say Scientists

Scientists are one step closer to giving us a one-stop vaccine that could protect us from all types of flu.

Dubbed as the 'holy grail' of immunology, this vaccine has been particularly hard to create as flu viruses are constantly changing.

Think of cars. While each vehicle varies in its design and chassis, the engine is integral to it functioning. Take out the engine and the car becomes useless. This is essentially what two US animal-based studies have done to flu viruses.

Both experiments have discovered a way to target the parts of the virus that remain constant across all strains, the Press Association reports.

Separate papers published in Nature Medicine and Science showed that newly-created vaccines were able to give animals infected with doses of bird flu and swine flu, immunity.

These vaccines have been hailed as a breakthrough because of the particular region of the virus they target.

Today, most flu vaccines have to be updated seasonally to combat the mutating parts of the virus.

However, both experiments used a vaccine that targeted a component of the virus common to all strains.

This could potentially allow us to fight off any type flu virus, even the strains that are yet to emerge.

In the study in Nature Medicine, mice and ferrets infected with a lethal dose of H5N1 bird flu survived after being treated with a "nano-vaccine," PA reports.

Similarly, in the paper published by Science, researchers proved that the vaccine worked against both H5N1 and H1N1 strains of the virus.

While the vaccines are yet to undergo clinical trials, the results have caused a considerable stir among scientists.

British vaccinology expert Professor Sarah Gilbert, from Oxford University, told PA: "We've known for some time that there is a region of HA, the stem, that does not change and is present on all flu A viruses, and if we can use only that part in the vaccine we could raise immunity to many different viruses at the same time, but it has been technically challenging to make a vaccine that works in that way.

"This is an exciting development, but the new vaccines now need to be tested in clinical trials to see how well they work in humans. This will be the next stage of research, which will take several years. So we are still some way from having better flu vaccines for humans."

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