Scientists say they are closer to developing a new type of vaccine that will last for a lifetime, and protect against any type of flu.
The universal flu vaccine has already been ‘successfully’ trialled on animals, and scientists say its a matter of years before being introduced to humans worldwide.
BBC News reports:
Conventional flu jabs target molecules on the surface of the flu virus, but these are constantly changing.
Imagine the flu virus as a ball with lots of lollipops on stems sticking out.
The lollipops change year to year, but the stems remain the same.
It is the stems that scientists are now focusing on as a target for a universal flu jab.
Many different research teams have been testing potential candidates, but it has been a technical challenge to make something that can be used in a vaccine without involving the lollipop ‘head’ of the hemagglutinin molecule.
This latest work seems particularly promising, according to Prof John Oxford, a flu expert at the University of London.
He called the results a “red letter day” for science.
“This is a leap forward compared to anything done recently. They have good animal data, not just in mice but in ferrets and monkeys too. And they’ve done it with the bird flu virus H5N1,” he said.
“It’s a very good stepping stone. Ultimately, the hope is to get a vaccine that will cover a pandemic virus.”
Prof Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at University of Oxford, said: “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,” she added.