USA, Washington DC. Each year, scientists create an influenza (flu) vaccine that protects against a few specific influenza strains that researchers predict are going to be the most common during that year. Now, a new study shows that scientists may be able to create a 'universal' vaccine that can provide broad protection against numerous influenza strains, including those that could cause future pandemics.
"The reason researchers change the vaccine every year is that they want to specifically match the vaccine to the particular viruses that are circulating, such as H1N1. If the vaccine is just a little bit different to the target virus, it is not expected to offer much protection," said principal investigator of the study Jeffery Taubenberger, MD, PhD, Chief of Viral Pathogenesis and Evolution Section, Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). "What we have done is design a strategy where you don't have to think about matching the vaccine antigen to the virus at all."