According to an article on The Independent, scientists have come across the “blueprint” for a cutting edge flu vaccine that could protect against all strains of seasonal influenza. This is even true for new, deadly viruses never experienced before.
The discovery was made after a “natural experiment” was done following the swine flu pandemic of 2009, which led to evidence that naturally occurring immune cells could possibly play a critical role in our bodies’ resistance to the flu. More than 300 faculty members and students at Imperial College in London contributed to the research and their conditions were monitored throughout the outbreak. The findings were then published on the Nature Medicine Journal.
What was found was that those who avoided the most serious illness had more CD8 T cells, or virus-killing immune cells, in their blood at the onset of the pandemic. Of these T cells, Professor Ajit Lalvani of the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College in London, said, “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 recognize and protect us against new strains that we haven’t encountered before and against which we lack antibodies.”
Lalvani went on to say that “New strains of flu are continuously emerging, some of which are deadly, and so the Holy Grail is to create a universal vaccine that would be effective against all strains of flu.”
While some might assume this is far off, Lalvani says this might not be the case, pointing out they already know how to stimulate the immune system to make CD8 T cells through vaccination. “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,” the professor said.
This sounds very promising, but we have to wonder just how long it will take to engineer this Holy Grail, and whether it will truly be able to solve our flu virus woes.
Source: The Independent