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Flu Breakthrough Promises Lifetime Immunity From All Strains

By    |   Wednesday, 13 May 2015 04:35 PM

Australian scientists have cracked the code of how flu-killing immunity cells target distinct strains of influenza — a discovery that could lead to a one-time flu vaccine that would last a lifetime.

Developing a universal flu vaccine has been an elusive Holy Grail of medical researchers for decades, because it would replace current flu shots which must be developed year-to-year because the influenza virus is constantly mutating.

The new work, by University of Melbourne researchers, gas identified how the human immune system’s “killer” CD8+T cells target new viruses and retain cellular “memories” of virus strains, the scientists reported in the journal Nature Communications.

Understanding the mechanisms at work could pave the way for developing a flu vaccine that harnesses that technique to allow the body’s defense mechanisms to target new and evolving viruses, without the need for a yearly flu shot.

Lead research Katherine Kedzierska explained that the research began during the first outbreak of the bird flu H7N9 virus in China in 2013, Medical Xpress reports. About 30 percent of people hospitalized with the virus died, making it one of the most virulent strains of flu in history.

"We'd never seen anything like H7N9," said Kedzierska said. "The virus was infecting more people rapidly and nobody had immunity. Thankfully, we did manage to contain the virus but we knew we had come face-to-face with a potential pandemic that could kill millions of people around the world if the virus became able to spread between humans."

For the new research, Kedzierska team analyzed samples taken from infected patients and found that those who couldn't make T cells were the ones who died.

“These findings led to the potential of moving from vaccines for specific influenza strains toward developing a protection, which is based on T-cells," she said.

"Our extraordinary breakthrough could lead to the development of a vaccine component that can protect against all new influenza viruses, with the potential for future development of a one-off universal flu vaccine shot.”

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Scientists have made a discovery that could lead to a one-time flu vaccine that would last a lifetime.
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Wednesday, 13 May 2015 04:35 PM
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