A group of American scientists is working on the first universal flu vaccine that could last a lifetime, reducing yearly costs associated with revaccination and better protecting the most vulnerable citizens.
“We are developing a vaccine so that we can provide more breadth of protection,” says Dr. Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, director of the Mount Sinai Health and Merging Pathogens Institute, and co-author of the study published in the journal Nature Medicine. “You won’t have to be worried about endemics anymore. That is something very positive. Maybe something that can really become reality,” adds Dr. Florian Krammer, a professor of vaccinology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and leader of the research team.
The yearly flu shot only works 40 to 60% of the time but only if they match the current viral strains that change every year. Traditionally, vaccines have been developed to target the head of the hemagglutinin protein that covers the surface of the virus. The new approach takes aim at the stalk-end of that protein which is most likely the same in different virus strains. A universal flu vaccine would be welcome in impoverished countries where yearly shots constitute a considerable financial burden.