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Researchers Aim to Create Universal Flu Vaccine

Update Date: May 23, 2013 12:32 PM EDT

Every year, a new flu vaccine needs to be created due to the fact that multiple strains of the virus circulate seasonally. Since there are different targets every year, people must get vaccinated every year as well in order to protect themselves. According to a new study, flu scientists are aiming to find a way to create a universal flu vaccine that could protect people from multiple strains of the virus.  Although the creation of a universal flu vaccine would take a lot longer, researchers reported that in an animal study, one particular vaccine was able to protect against multiple strains of the virus.

In this animal study, researchers from Sanofi, a pharmaceutical company, evaluated specific targets present in the flu virus. Even though the virus targets change every year, there are some spots, which the researchers called weak spots that remain the same. They believe that these spots could be used as the new targets in creating a single jab that can protect against multiple strains. The research group went about this experiment by using a different approach in creating a seasonal flu jab. Currently, the flu jab is created by growing the virus in chicken eggs, which is then inactivated and injected into people. Instead of creating this particular jab using this method, the researchers created a vaccine that combined the surface of the virus to a transporter protein found in blood.

This new type of vaccine, which was half virus and half protein, was injected in ferrets. The researchers discovered that the ferrets were able to protect themselves from viruses that were present from 1934 to 2007. However, the researchers stressed that the jab they created is not capable of protecting people from all flu viruses. However, the jab is a sign that a universal vaccine could be achieved eventually.

"We think this is a step down the path towards a universal vaccine. It's not a universal vaccine yet," commented the chief scientific officer at Sanofi, Dr. Gary Nabel. "There's lots of research in the early phases and this looks as good as anything out there."

The findings were published in Nature

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