NIH Scientists Advance Universal Flu Vaccine

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A universal influenza vaccine “” so-called because it could potentially provide protection from all flu strains for decades “” may become a reality because of research led by scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

In experiments with mice, ferrets and monkeys, the investigators used a two-step immunization approach to elicit infection-fighting antibodies that attacked a diverse array of influenza virus strains. Current flu vaccines do not generate such broadly neutralizing antibodies, so they must be re-formulated annually to match the predominant virus strains circulating each year.

The research, led by NIAID scientist Gary J. Nabel, M.D., Ph.D., appears online ahead of print July 15 in Science Express.

“Generating broadly neutralizing antibodies to multiple strains of influenza in animals through vaccination is an important milestone in the quest for a universal influenza vaccine,” says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “This significant advance lays the groundwork for the development of a vaccine to provide long-lasting protection against any strain of influenza. A durable and effective universal influenza vaccine would have enormous ramifications for the control of influenza, a disease that claims an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 lives annually, including an average of 36,000 in the United States.”