The influenza virus
Scientists at Oxford University have successfully tested a universal flu vaccine that could work against all known strains of the illness, taking a significant step in the fight against a disease that affects billions of people each year.And, no more annual vaccinations.
The treatment – using a new technique and tested for the first time on humans infected with flu – targets a different part of the flu virus to traditional vaccines, meaning it does not need expensive reformulation every year to match the most prevalent virus that is circulating the world.
Developed by a team led by Dr Sarah Gilbert at Oxford's Jenner Institute, the vaccine targets proteins inside the flu virus that are common across all strains, instead of those that sit on the virus's external coat, which are liable to mutate.
It is believed that the vaccine could provide better protection against flu for older people. The Jenner Institute scientists are already testing it on people over 50, a group that does not respond so well to traditional vaccines.After having been hospitalized a few years ago for a few days with influenza, I know the flu is not something to be passed over lightly. When this vaccine is available after testing, it will be of great benefit.
"The [traditional flu] vaccine efficacy is 70-80% of young people, but only 30-40% in old people," said Hill. "What we'll do is an efficacy trial in the elderly and try to improve that 30-40% to hopefully double that."