- By Michelle Roberts
- Chief digital health editor
Scientists say they have made a breakthrough in designing a vaccine against all 20 known types of flu.
It uses the same messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) technology as proven Covid vaccines.
Influenza mutates and the current annual vaccine is updated to ensure the best possible match with the type of flu in circulation, but it would probably not protect against new types of pandemic.
The new vaccine triggered high levels of antibodies, in tests in ferrets and mice, that could fight off a wide range.
The antigens it contains – safe copies of recognizable parts of the 20 known influenza A and B virus subtypes – can teach the immune system to fight them and hopefully fight off any new strains that may trigger a pandemic, explain the researchers in the journal Science.
“The idea here is to have a vaccine that will give people a baseline level of immune memory against various strains of flu,” Dr. Scott Hensley, one of the scientists behind the work, told the University of Pennsylvania.
“There will be far fewer illnesses and deaths when the next flu pandemic occurs.”
The 2009 swine flu pandemic – caused by a virus that jumped species to infect humans – was less severe than initially feared.
But the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic is believed to have killed tens of millions of people.
Director of the Institute for Global Health and Emerging Pathogens at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, Adolfo García-Sastrem, said, “Current influenza vaccines do not protect against influenza viruses with pandemic potential.
“This vaccine, if it works well in humans, would achieve that goal.
“The studies are preclinical, in experimental models.
“They are very promising and, although they suggest a protective capacity against all influenza virus subtypes, we cannot be sure until clinical trials in volunteers have been carried out.”
Estanislao Nistal, a virologist at San Pablo University, said: “All this implies the potential for an easy and rapid to construct universal vaccine that could be of great use in the event of a pandemic of a new influenza virus. .”