Universal flu vaccine could protect against several epidemics

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The yearly flu jab could soon become a relic as researchers move closer to a universal vaccine against influenza, according to new reports.

Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have developed an experimental vaccine that uses the HA molecule without the globular head. In a new experiment, researchers injected the new universal vaccine into a group of lab mice, exposed them to the flu, and followed them for 10 days. Because each seasonal strain of flu is different from past strains, a new vaccine must be developed every year to fight the disease. These vaccines target the ever-changing globular head of the hemaglutinin (HA) molecule on the surface of the virus.

All of the mice that received the recent experimental vaccination were alive at the end of the trial; all of the mice that did not receive the vaccine died, according to the report. With further testing and development, a single dose could potentially provide protection against several flu epidemics, researchers said. The report appears in the inaugural issue of mBio, a new online journal from the American Society for Microbiology.