Scientists Say Universal Flu Vaccine Could Be Available In 10 Years’ Time

Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania believe within 10 years, a universal vaccine for the flu could be a reality after they held successful preclinical tests.

The vaccine has already gone through animal testing, where it was a success, and was reported to have protected mice from various strands of the flu. Tests have also been carried out on rabbits and ferrets, with next stage moving to testing primates.

In an article published in the journal Nature Communications, the scientists said they hope to take the candidate vaccine to human trial within the next two years.

Scott Hensley, an associate professor of microbiology and one of the lead authors of the study, sounded very optimistic about the prospects of the candidate vaccine, declaring: “If it works in humans even half as well as it does in mice, then the sky’s the limit — it could be something that everyone uses in the future to protect themselves from the flu.”

Co-senior author, Drew Weissman, a professor of infectious diseases, said their prospective vaccine had done better than other studies, as it “was able to elicit protective responses against a conserved region that offers broad protection.”

The researchers said if the vaccine proves to be a success, it would be different from other vaccines, which are given seasonally, as this one would be given a few times through a person’s life, similar to current tetanus protocols.

The New Atlas website said current flu vaccines are designed to target proteins on the surface of the influenza virus called hemagglutinin (HA).

“The unique fingerprint on the head of these proteins is what our current flu vaccines aim for, but these protein heads are rapid mutators, which is why we need to reformulate our flu vaccines every year,” it said.

In spite of various flu vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that between 9.2 million and 35.6 million people are infected with the virus in the United States annually. It is also estimated that between 140,000 and 710,000 people are hospitalised annually and between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths annually since 2010.

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