A vaccine combining genes from four major strains of influenza appears to provide lifelong protection, according to new research on mice models by a team from the Nebraska Centre for Virology in the US.
Mice protected by the unconventional vaccine survived exposure to lethal doses of seven of nine widely divergent influenza viruses. Those that received higher doses of the vaccine didn’t get sick at all.
In contrast, mice that received traditional flu shots or nasal sprays all sickened and died when exposed to the same viruses. The deadly pathogens were able to evade the immune responses triggered by the traditional vaccines.
While it is too soon to say the approach could be successfully used in humans, it appears to be a promising start and could eventually lead to the creation of a universal flu shot, according to the study’s lead researcher Eric Weaver.
‘The ultimate goal is to be able to vaccinate once and provide lifelong protection,’ he said.
‘To put this in other terms, our current influenza vaccine programs and technologies reduce influenza infections and hospitalisations by 4.75 per cent and 6.9 per cent, respectively. There is no doubt that there is a need for more effective vaccine technologies.’
‘An ideal influenza vaccine would be inexpensive, provide long-lasting immunity, require few immunisations and would work against all variants of the virus.’
Some experts say it could take until 2020 or 2025 before a universal flu vaccine is available.