Universal flu vaccine protects mice in Mt. Sinai study

Beheading the hemagglutinin protein exposes a stable section of the molecule, and that may just prove the solution needed to develop a universal flu vaccine, according to a team of researchers at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. The approach produced solid results in an animal study, in which mice were protected from multiple strains of the flu virus. And if the same approach works in humans, seasonal flu shots would no longer be needed.

Every year vaccine companies develop huge quantities of new seasonal flu vaccines that target various flu strains picked as the most likely culprits to trigger an epidemic. And every year the hit-and-miss strategy typically leaves many people unprotected, as the vaccine targets the ever-changing globular head of the hemagglutinin molecule on the surface of the virus to trigger an immune response. By removing the head the scientists were able to make a vaccine that was effective across multiple strains.

"This new vaccine brings us closer to our ultimate goal of a vaccine that protects against multiple strains," said Peter Palese, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Microbiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "Our results suggest that the response induced by this vaccine is potent enough to warrant further development toward a universal influenza virus vaccine. With further development and testing, we predict that a single immunization will in the future offer a sufficient defense against several influenza epidemics."

Developing a universal flu vaccine has been one of the Holy Grails of developers active in the vaccine field. A long lineup of companies, including BiondVax and VaxInnate, have been drawn to the field.

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- here's the story from Reuters