Flu research could produce "universal vaccine"


A universal flu vaccine could be possible after the discovery of the "core" of the flu virus, a UK study has suggested.1

Researchers at Imperial College in London found that an immune cell called a CD8+ Tcell recognised proteins found in swine flu, and several other strains of the illness, which it is hoped could lead to an eventual vaccine for all flu types.

A vaccine for flu has been notoriously difficult to produce, as proteins on the outside of the virus are constantly changing and mutating.

A group of 342 healthy adults were examined after the 2009 flu pandemic to see how effective their immune system was against the pH1N1 strain of the disease. Researchers were especially interested to see whether those who developed milder forms of the illness had higher numbers of the CD8+ Tcells in their immune system before they became infected.

The study found that although people with these Tcells were not less likely to develop pH1N1, they were less likely to develop the really serious symptoms associated with flu.

However, the small numbers involved in the study and the fact that the study didn't account for less healthy and older adults does limit the findings slightly. Despite this, it could be a great step forward to finding an overall vaccine.

Reference:

1. Sridhar S, Begom S, Bermingham A, et al. Cellular immune correlates of protection against symptomatic pandemic influenza. Nature Medicine. Published online September 22 2013