Universal flu vaccination may be possible in five years

Credit: Bioquellus

Nobody enjoys getting the flu, but at some point in our lives, we've all had to deal with it. Flu viruses are almost impossible to avoid, since the shape-shifting little bugger is always changing its form and creating new strains each year. Yet researchers at the Imperial College London say they have made a "blueprint" for a universally effective flu vaccination that will be effective in treating any new strains that come along.

The surface of the flu virus, which is made up of different combinations of proteins, is constantly changing its makeup, which proves troublesome when it comes to creating effective vaccination. But the core of the flu virus stays the same in many types of strains, which might be the key to unlocking a vaccination that would eradicate not just one kind of the flu, but many variations.

During a study of T-cells found in the human immune system, researchers were able to establish a link between how sick a patient would get in conjunction to the number of their T-cells. T-cells are found to recognize what proteins make up a virus' core. By using a strain of the 2009 swine flu virus to test this theory, the researchers did find that the more T-cells a person had, the less sick they became. So, by developing a T-cell vaccine versus an antibody-based one, flu vaccinations may become more potent than ever before.

Still, scientists are not yet ready to release a working version of a T-cell vaccine, since T-cell response has not been fully developed enough to fight the onslaught of a flu. The estimated release date could be as far as five years away, according to study lead Professor Ajit Lalvani. Oh well, it's back to eating tons of oranges and 40-hour Skyrim marathons for me!

BBC, via Nature

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