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Scientists may have discovered the secret to curing the flu – forever.
As we know, the flu mutates regularly, so every year flu reappears and the elderly and vulnerable require injections. This precaution is the best option available at the minute, but that may be about the change.
Existing drugs have targeted molecules on the surface of the virus, but with these constantly changing, tweaking the medicine is vital.
The spikes on the surface of the bug never change, so the new studies have focussed on these. While targeting the spikes is nothing new, past experiments haven’t succeeded.
A team led by Hadi Yassine of the Vaccine Research Centre at the US National Institutes of Health have made progress, in the form of a new vaccine made from the ferritin protein that attaches to the flu spikes. The aim was to protect against all types of flu, and all future mutations.
Initial animal testing was encouraging, with the almost all test subjects demonstrating immunity against various strains of flu, including the highly-contagious H1N1 and, crucially, bird flu.
Several separate injections would usually be needed to create such universal immunity – and the benefits would only be temporary. Will this new vaccination have lasting effects?
Sara Gilbert, of the University of Oxford, said of the study: “This is an exciting development, but the new vaccines now need to be tested in clinical trials to see how well they work in humans.”
By proving the concept of targeting the spikes works, the findings have been hailed as a major step towards a universal influenza vaccination. Can we really guard against future mutations? Would further injections be needed? Tell us what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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