Flu vaccine kills all strains in early tests


The seasonal flu could be a thing of the past. Image: Flickr / dandeluca / CC-BY-SA

In a limited human trial at Oxford, a flu vaccine that kills all strains of the disease was tested. The new flu vaccine works by increasing T-cells instead of developing antibodies. Researchers hope to eliminate the seasonal flu vaccine with this new breakthrough.

How the seasonal flu vaccine works

The seasonal flu vaccine is developed each year and takes up to four months to manufacture. Experts essentially guess which strain of the flu will appear each year, and develop a vaccine based on the small genetic changes expected in the virus. Once the vaccine is injected, the body creates antibodies that can fight off that version of the flu. While the seasonal flu vaccine usually works relatively well, there are serious weaknesses.

New flu vaccine kills all strains

In a very limited human trial at Oxford, researchers infected 22 volunteers with the flu. Then 11 of the volunteers were injected with the new flu vaccine and 11 were not. The vaccine appeared to work just as well, if not better, than the seasonal vaccine. The new flu vaccine is able to kill all strains by taking a two-prong approach: increasing disease-fighting T-cells and attacking the center of the flu virus. This dual approach attacks the part of the virus that does not change every year, meaning it could kill all strains of the flu.

Larger trials required for flu vaccine that could kill all strains

Though the first human trial of this universal flu vaccine is promising, there is still much to be done. Larger human trials need to be undertaken in order to prove both safety and efficacy of the vaccine. If the vaccine does prove safe and effective, then it has many potential benefits. Not only would the yearly cycle of the seasonal flu vaccine be broken, but it could also protect against avian and swine flu. The T-cell aspect could also prove helpful in treating long-term illnesses.



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