Universal Flu Vaccine In The Works

University of Nebraska researchers have been working to develop a universal flu shot they hope could become just another childhood vaccine instead of having to be vaccinated every year.

"It’s possible that we could set up a foundation of lifelong immunity against influenza that would provide at least partial protection from all h1, h2, h3, and h5 influenza strains," said Eric Weaver an assistant professor at UNL.

Weaver and a team of researchers at the university have been developing a shot that would provide life long protection against the flu.

The idea is to use an ancestral form of the influenza virus in a vaccine. All modern strains of the virus developed from the initial strain and still share some of the same genes, thus allowing a vaccine with the ancestral form to provide protection against all current and future strains of the flu. 

So far tests of the vaccine in mice have shown it to work better than current vaccines. "When we compared that to a traditional flu vaccine either flu mist or flu zone we got superior protection and the mice were able to survive against 7 out of 9 lethal influenza challenges," Weaver said. 

The vaccines effectiveness in mice is an encouraging sign, but a lot more testing needs to be done before it could become commercially available. "We are making advancements. This is a very significant advancement over the traditional influenza vaccine platform. We are getting closer to making broadly protective influenza vaccines," Weaver said. Current vaccines provide protection against only three or four strains of the flu and are not always correct in predicting what strains will be worst that year.

A universal shot that protects against all strains would save lives, but it could be ten years before it becomes available.