Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Universal Flu Vaccine

H1N1 Virus. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
A new study in the Journal of Experimental Medicine reports that people who fight off the swine flu (H1N1) develop antibodies that can help them fight off other flu infections as well. This finding could be used to create a universal flu vaccine that would eliminate the need for a yearly flu shot against that year's most likely problematic strains.

Five antibodies isolated from patients that had successfully fended off swine flu appeared different than those antibodies created to fight more typical flu strains. Those antibodies have proven able to fight off even virulent flu strains like the "spanish flu" from 1918 and bird flu (H5N1).

The important thing to remember with a breakthrough like this is that even thought the results are promising, it takes a long time to get from the basic research stage to human trails and widespread availability as a treatment. So even if this works, don't expect a universal vaccine anytime soon. It is likely to be five years or more before doctors can even think about saying goodbye to yearly flu shots.

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