British scientists are closing in on a universal flu shot — a one-shot vaccine that offers lifetime protection from the virus.
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John Oxford, a virologist at St. Barts and Royal London Hospital and leading flu expert, tells The Daily Express
newspaper that preliminary clinical trials of such a vaccine have had positive results and researchers are poised to recruit thousands of people for large-scale clinical trials they hope will lead to widespread availability of the shot by 2018.
"It’s terribly exciting. This vaccine has the potential to save thousands of lives a year," he told the newspaper. "Everyone working on it is wildly enthusiastic about the first positive results from small human trials."
A universal flu vaccine has been the "Holy Grail" of medical researchers for decades, offering the prospect of a single shot that provides lifetime protection. Past studies involving laboratory animals have found the vaccine to be effective against several types of influenza virus, including the deadly bird and swine flu strains. The latest research, led by Oxford, involved about 100 patients.
Flu viruses change each year, posing a particular risk to elderly people and pregnant women, so given new vaccines are developed each year to target specific strains.
But the new universal vaccine would protect against all influenza viruses even when they change, by attacking parts of the virus that do not change, and could mean the end of the annual flu-shot jabs millions of people receive every year.