A new vaccine created by scientists in the US could give humans life-long immunity to influenza and help prevent future pandemics.
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Vaccines are already available for preventing the illness, but as soon as the virus mutates these become redundant and new ones must be developed.
The mutation rate of influenza is high and as a result a new vaccine is recommended each year. Huge sums of money end up being pumped into research in this area.
But this could soon change thanks to the latest discovery. If the vaccine passes full human trials and is fully developed by a pharmaceutical company, people will only need to have the jab once.
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In initial animal tests, the results of which are published in the journals Science and Nature Medicine, the vaccine was able to give life-long immunity to multiple strains.
This is because, unlike traditional vaccines which have always targeted a part of the virus that is susceptible to mutation, this vaccine targets a permanent part of the virus that does not change.
It could be a major help in preventing major flu outbreaks occurring again in the future, such as the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic that killed more than 16,000 people worldwide.
Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford University, said:
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.This will be the next stage of research, which will take several years. So we are still some way from having better flu vaccines for humans.