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Are we close to a universal flu vaccine?

Updated: Nov 25, 2022

Research towards a universal vaccine to target all possible strains of the influenza virus has been ongoing for quite some time.

The flu virus affects thousands of people globally every year. Experts predict a high spike of infections across the country this winter season.

The flu virus remains deadly

Every winter, we get jabbed with a new flu vaccine cocktail made for a new strain of influenza virus. We've made it to the moon several times over and now headed to mars as a species, but why has it been so challenging to manufacture a universal flu injection which could fight all strains? A major part of the problem has been a persisting hit-or-miss prediction of what particular strains of the influenza virus should targeted in a given season.

But the virus seemingly and consistently evades our aim by rapidly mutating and leaving us with several strains present in our environment at any given time.

A universal flu vaccine is within reach (hopefully)

Recently, a team of researchers from the USA and China designed a vaccine that could “take the guesswork out of seasonal flu protection by boosting the immune system’s capacity to combat many viral strains”.

According to Scientific American, the researchers dissected the flu virus in the lab and tested how different mutations in each segment responded when exposed to interferon, a protein released by the body when viruses attack.

From this research, they were able to identify which particular mutation made the virus most likely to cause these protective interferons to be released.

If a similar study in humans suggest results consistent with that seen in mice and ferrets, this finding could lead to a universal vaccine (and of course, the need for an annual flu shot.)

Fingers crossed.

An ongoing challenge

Ongoing studies suggest some form of cross-protection between a limited set of influenza strains. However, this might not be the case for all the past, current, and future flu strains.

According to the Scripps Research Institute, triggering a robust immune response to the flu virus can also put many people at risk for other health complications, such as lung tissue damage and other respiratory complications.

Until then...

For now, here are some useful recommendations to keep yourself healthy during the flu season:

  • Regular and thorough hand-washing

  • Sanitization of surfaces shared with others such as door knobs, keyboards, workbenches, etc.

  • Adequate sleep

  • Healthy diet rich with fruits and vegetables

  • Staying warm and dry.

This article was inspired by an original publication at news

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