Flu Cure May Be On The Way as Scientists Develop Multi-Strain Vaccine
Scientists are working together to create a universal flu vaccination that can protect against multiple strains of the virus. On average, between 5-20% of Americans come down with the flu at least once a year. With this new vaccine, doctors are hoping that the vaccine will eliminate the necessity for the yearly flu shot.
The vaccine has been tested on mice, ferrets, and monkeys infected with different types of flu. The Guardian reports that so far, the vaccine seems to have worked, and many test subjects have seen reduced symptoms.
Current flu vaccinations target the top of a molecule known as haemagglutinin (HA.) Seasonal flu vaccines are designed to fight against specific strains of the virus that scientists believe will be the greatest threat. However, HA molecules are known to mutate quickly, rendering the vaccinations ineffective.
This is what happened to last winter’s flu vaccination, which was created in 2013. One of the most common circulating strains, known as H3N2, had a fast-paced mutation, making it difficult for the vaccination to do its job. The Independent reports that as a result, only 3% of those who were injected were protected from the virus, as opposed to the typical 50% rate.
The new vaccine, which is being studied by two separate research teams, targets the “stem” of the HA molecule, rather than the top. They believe that the HA stem is very similar across different strains of flu, and is less likely to mutate.
”This is an exciting development,” says Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at Oxford University. “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.”
As of now, doctors estimate that it will take another three to five years to carry out further vaccination development before the vaccine can be tested on human volunteers.
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