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Flu Vaccine: Universal Dose Gets a Step Closer With New Finding

By David Ogul   |   Monday, 23 Sep 2013 02:40 PM

Researchers say they are a step closer to finding a universal flu vaccine that can protect people from virtually every strain of the disease that kills thousands of Americans annually.

A news release from Imperial College London says the breakthrough came from a study of patients from the 2009 pandemic.

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“Researchers at Imperial College London asked volunteers to donate blood samples just as the swine flu pandemic was getting underway and report any symptoms they experienced over the next two flu seasons,” the news release states. “They found that those who avoided severe illness had more CD8 T cells, a type of virus-killing immune cell, in their blood at the start of the pandemic.

“They believe a vaccine that stimulates the body to produce more of these cells could be effective at preventing flu viruses, including new strains that cross into humans from birds and pigs, from causing serious disease.”

Professor Ajit Lalvani from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College said in the release, “Our findings suggest that by making the body produce more of this specific type of CD8 T cell, you can protect people against symptomatic illness. This provides the blueprint for developing a universal flu vaccine.”

The findings are published in Nature Medicine.

Flu shots for vaccines today are based on certain strains that researchers and scientists believe will be the most common for the year. Antibodies begin developing about two weeks after a person gets a flu shot, and that protects the person from those strains of flu.

During last year’s flu season, though, a vaccine that protected against three strains was effective in less than 2 of every 3 people who got a flu shot, CBS News noted.

Lalvani told the BBC that a universal vaccine is about five years away. “We have the know-how, we know what needs to be done in the vaccine and we can just get on and do it.”

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