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Flu Breakthrough: Universal Vaccine May Be in Sight

Researchers have studied various flu strains and found that the body’s so-called killer immune cells offer protection against all influenza viruses.

Soon, we may no longer need to update our flu vaccines each year, as a universal flu shot is now in sight.

Influenza A, B, and C viruses are widespread globally and infect a significant number of children and adults each year.

For example, during the 2017–2018 flu season, there were 30,453 cases of hospitalization due to influenza, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

During the same period, 185 children died as a result of the flu, approximately 80 percent of whom had not received a flu shot that season.

Estimates place the effectiveness of current flu vaccines at 40 percent, which means that the shot cuts the risk of someone seeking influenza-related medical help by two-fifths.

Current flu shots are not effective against all influenza strains, so people need to have another vaccine each year. However, new research may soon change this, as scientists have found that a particular type of immune cell can protect against all influenza types.

Katherine Kedzierska, a professor at the University of Melbourne in Australia and laboratory head at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) in Melbourne is the study’s senior and corresponding author.

Marios Koutsakos, a doctoral researcher with the Doherty Institute, is the first author of the paper, which features in the journal Nature Immunology.

Studying ‘killer’ immune cells and flu strains

Prof. Kedzierska explains the motivation for the research, saying that there has been insufficient research on certain strains of influenza.

“Influenza B immunology particularly has remained largely understudied because it doesn’t have pandemic potential,” she says. “However, it is a serious virus that can lead to death and severe illness, mostly in children, and was one of the missing pieces of the universal flu protection puzzle.”

 

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Source: Medical News Today