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Want to be immune from the flu forever? This new vaccine might do the trick

vaccine blowing nose
Eugenio Marongiu/Getty Images
You know that it is nearing winter when someone in the office starts sniffling, and you get the slow-motion horror of watching one colleague after another succumb to a seasonal bout of flu. Fortunately, virology researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are here to help. They have invented a new four-in-one vaccine which they hope may act as a “universal flu shot,” offering lifelong protection to all those it’s given to.

The vaccine combines ancestral genes from four different major strains of influenza. While it has yet to be tested on humans, in mouse trials it has proven highly successful. Mice that were given high doses of the vaccine and then subjected to lethal doses of nine different flu viruses failed to get sick. On the other hand, mice that received regular flu shots or nasal sprays got sick and died when they were exposed to the same pathogens. The researchers hope that similar effects will carry over to people, and suggest their vaccine could well be “scalable and translatable to humans” as the foundation for “complete and long-lasting” immunization against the flu.

“The ultimate goal is to be able to vaccinate once and provide lifelong protection,” lead researcher Eric Weaver, an assistant professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said in a statement. “Our idea is that these centralized antigens can set up a foundation of immunity against influenza. Because they are centralized and represent all the strains equally, they could provide a basis for immunity against all evolved strains.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 40 million Americans got sick with the flu during the 2015-2016 flu season, during which a massive 970,000 people were hospitalized with the illness. While current vaccines are definitely a good thing, Weaver suggests that they only reduce flu infections and hospitalizations by 4.75 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively. In other words, there’s a big need for better preventative measures. Hopefully, this could be it.

A paper describing the work, titled “Efficacy of an Adenoviral Vectored Multivalent Centralized Influenza Vaccine,” was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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