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'Universal' Flu Vaccine Shows Promise in Early Trial
Date:2/8/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Feb. 7 (HealthDay News) -- A small group of 22 British volunteers is testing out a new "universal" influenza vaccine: one that might be effective against all strains of flu and wouldn't have to be reformulated each year, as now happens.

"Our hope is to develop a vaccine that works against all strains of influenza A and all subtypes so we won't need to keep making new flu vaccines each year and new flu vaccines when there is a pandemic," said lead researcher Sarah Gilbert, from the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford. "We will have one vaccine that works against all of them."

The experimental vaccine -- which targets relatively stable proteins inside the virus that are common to most or all strains -- might someday turn flu immunization into just another shot that people could get any time of the year. Fears of flu shot shortages could become a thing of the past, experts said.

Although Gilbert won't talk about the results of this very early clinical trial until they are published in a medical journal, it appears they are positive.

In the trial, half of the participants received the vaccine, while the other half did not. Early results indicate that those who received the vaccine have developed antibodies to flu, Gilbert told the British newspaper The Guardian. She said that fewer of those who got the vaccine came down with influenza, and their immune system T-cells seemed to be in a more activated state.

Although larger trials requiring thousands of people are needed to say anything definite, "I would call this an extremely important step in flu vaccine development," Gilbert told HealthDay.

"The first thing is, can we get broad immunity rather than specific immunity to particular flu viruses circulating this year that might not be in circulation next year?" she said. "The next thing is how long will the immunity last -- obvious
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