Universal Flu Vaccine Could Be Only A Few Years Away

Could a universal flu vaccine be created to cover all strains of the virus? British scientists believe such a thing could now be possible. Researchers say that people who were able to beat the 2009 flu pandemic without becoming sick is the key. How far off is something like this? Scientists are hopeful that a universal flu shot could be available to the public sometime in the next five years.

This year flu season begins as temperatures drop in October. The current flu vaccine will be available to the public. However, the shot, known as the quadrivalent flu vaccine, will only cover four strains of the influenza virus. And because the flu virus is constantly adapting and evolving to counter these vaccines, the current shot is not guaranteed complete effectiveness. If nothing else, the shot will have to be updated for the next flu season, as it is every year.

The way modern flu vaccines work rely on identifying unique protein variations between strains. However, scientists believe that data gathered during the 2009 swine flu could help create a vaccine that deals with the virus on a more fundamental level, reports Weather.com. One scientist says that to crack this could be like finding the “Holy Grail.”

The announcement is based on a study that began in 2009. That year the H1N1, or swine flu, virus lead to a global pandemic, claiming at least 18,500 lives. In a way, the researchers say, this event was like a natural experiment demonstrating the danger of viruses that humans have not been encountered before.

During this time, researchers began collecting blood samples from over 340 volunteers. They discovered that volunteers who had a large amount of a special type of immune cell, called the CD8 T cell, managed to avoid serious illness from the H1N1 virus, reports CBS News

Researchers believe that a shot that promotes CD8 T cell production could become a form of universal flu vaccine that would protect humans against all influenza strains, new and old.

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