Scientists have successfully tested a flu vaccine on volunteers that could work against all known strains of the illness.
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, the Guardian said.
It is the first vaccine of its type to be tested on people infected with flu. The research was led by Dr Sarah Gilbert of Oxford’s Jenner Institute.
Adrian Hill, the institute’s director, told the Guardian: “The problem with flu is that you’ve got lots of different strains and they keep changing. Occasionally one comes out of wildfowl or pigs and we’re not immune to it. We need new vaccines and we can’t make them fast enough.”
Dr Gilbert added: “If we were using the same vaccine year in, year out, it would be more like vaccinating against other diseases like tetanus. It would become a routine vaccination that would be manufactured and used all the time at a steady level. We wouldn’t have these sudden demands or shortages – all that would stop.”
During the trial Dr Gilbert vaccinated 11 healthy volunteers and then infected them, along with 11 non-vaccinated volunteers.
She monitored the volunteers’ symptoms twice a day, including runny noses, coughs and sore throats, and weighed tissues to calculate how much mucus they produced.
The vaccine boosts the number of the body’s T-cells, which are important to the body’s immune response, identifying and destroying cells infected by a virus.
The results, though only from a very small sample, showed the vaccine worked as planned with the vaccinated volunteers less likely to get flu and also showing a boost in T-cells.
The results have been sent to a scientific journal, with the next step a field trial to compare several thousand people.