There is plenty of talk regarding the flu vaccine every year. People always have questions about it and others do not quite understand how the flu vaccine works. In the previous articles, I was able to talk about the many different kinds of flu vaccines that will be available this season. All this knowledge is quite useful to know because when we have flu vaccine sessions, people always have questions regarding the type of strains the vaccine protects against. There was an article that I came across from Nature Medicine that completely caught my attention. It talks about the possible beginnings of developing a universal flu vaccine.
When I first read the title, I thought, “Does that mean that it will be available to everyone” or “Will it mean that there will only be one type of flu vaccine available?” Well, after reading the article, I am very excited to blog about it.
The article starts out by identifying the major faults of the current flu vaccine. Every season researchers try to predict which flu strains will be the most prominent every season. The current flu vaccine contains proteins from various flu strains that help the body create antibodies to create a protective immune response. Due to the composition of the current flu vaccine, it is really hard to keep up with the mutating virus. This explains why the flu vaccine from last year would not work for the flu season this year.
According to Ajit Lalvani- researcher from Imperial College of London Chair of Infectious Diseases- British researchers have found the blueprint of the flu which will help protect against future flu viruses.
The main difference between this proposed flu vaccine is that it will work differently than the standard flu vaccine that we have now. The new vaccine would produce CD8 Killer T Cells, which are immune system cells that attack the core of influenza proteins. The most interesting aspect is that the core influenza proteins are the same for all strains of the flu viruses. It would be the same for mutated viruses because every virus contains these core proteins. This would enable the new flu vaccine to identify flu strains that have yet to be identified. This would make it the first universal flu vaccine.
Lalvani and other colleagues did a study that proved the importance of T cells. In a study of 350 staff members and students, they found that the individuals that had the severest flu symptoms had the lowest T cell count. On the other hand, the individuals that had caught the flu but had milder symptoms had greater CD8 cell count.
Lalvani discussed how after these findings, it was all a matter of designing the vaccine and carrying clinical trials to see how effective and safe this universal flu vaccine might be. Lavalni stated that this flu vaccine might be available in the next five years.