In a major development in the field of medicine, UK researchers are close to develop a “universal” flu vaccine that could protect against every strain of the illness.
According to researchers at the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, the vaccine could be considered the “holy grail” of flu vaccines.
To examine the risk factors for severe flu, the researchers carried study on 300 staff members and students from the Imperial College. They found that those who avoided severe cases of the flu often carried a higher number of flu-fighting CD8 T cells.
Lead researcher Ajit Lalvani said, “The immune system produces these CD8 T cells in response to usual seasonal flu. Unlike antibodies, they target the core of the virus, which doesn’t change, even in new pandemic strains. The 2009 pandemic provided a unique natural experiment to test whether T cells could recognise, and protect us against, new strains that we haven’t encountered before and to which we lack antibodies.”
“We already know how to stimulate the immune system to make CD8 T cells by vaccination,” he said while adding, “Now that we know these T cells may protect, we can design a vaccine to prevent people getting symptoms and transmitting infection to others. This could curb seasonal flu annually and protect people against future pandemics.”