Skip to Content

Are Scientists Close to a 'Universal' Flu Vaccine?

MONDAY, Dec. 7, 2020 -- Scientists say they may be getting closer to creating a universal flu vaccine.

In an early-stage clinical trial with 65 volunteers in the United States, an experimental vaccine triggered strong immune responses to a wide range of flu virus strains and subtypes. The immune responses lasted at least 18 months, according to the researchers at Mount Sinai Health System, in New York City.

The vaccine produces antibodies that target the part of the surface protein of the influenza virus known to neutralize different influenza strains, the researchers said.

This chimeric hemagglutinin-based vaccine could provide long-term protection with two or three immunizations, eliminating the need for annual vaccinations, the study authors explained.

"An influenza virus vaccine that results in broad immunity would likely protect against any emerging influenza virus subtype or strain, and would significantly enhance our pandemic preparedness, avoiding future problems with influenza pandemics as we see them now with COVID-19," said study co-author Florian Krammer. He's a professor of microbiology at Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine.

"Our chimeric hemagglutinin vaccine is a major advance over conventional vaccines which are often mismatched to the circulating strains of virus, impacting their effectiveness. In addition, revaccinating individuals annually is a huge and expensive undertaking," Krammer added in a Mount Sinai news release.

"This phase of our clinical work significantly advances our understanding of the immune response in terms of its longevity, and leaves us greatly encouraged about future progress for this potentially breakthrough vaccine," Krammer said.

Seasonal flu causes as many as 650,000 deaths a year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. And flu pandemics occur at irregular intervals and can claim millions of lives.

According to study co-author Dr. Adolfo García-Sastre, a professor of microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine, "The beauty part of this vaccine is that it's not only broad, but multifunctional with stalk-specific antibodies that can neutralize many kinds of influenza viruses."

The vaccine could be particularly beneficial to low- and middle-income countries that don't have the resources or the logistics to vaccinate their populations each year against the flu, García-Sastre added.

The study was published online Dec. 7 in the journal Nature Medicine.

© 2021 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: December 2020

Read this next

What Happened to the Flu This Year?

FRIDAY, Jan. 15, 2021 -- The United States has far fewer flu cases than normal, and experts say it's probably due to measures people are taking to protect themselves from...

AHA News: Is It OK to Exercise When You're Sick?

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 13, 2021 (American Heart Association News) -- If you are sick and plan to exercise this cold and flu season, experts say to use your head – and recognize the...

Health Highlights: Dec. 21, 2020

Below are newsworthy items compiled by the HealthDay staff:   U.S. Army Researchers Analyze New Coronavirus Variant The new coronavirus variant in the UK that appears to...

More News Resources

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Whatever your topic of interest, subscribe to our newsletters to get the best of Drugs.com in your inbox.