Universal flu vax programs aim at blanket immunity

The swine flu outbreak has focused a spotlight on new research underway for a universal flu vaccine.

Every year vaccine experts engage in a crap shoot of sorts, trying to guess which strains of the flu virus will most likely threaten the world's population. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they get it wrong, and sometimes a brand new virus like the one originating in Mexico comes along. A universal vaccine could offer blanket immunity.

"The universal would completely change the way flu vaccination would be done," vaccine expert Sarah C. Gilbert tells the New York Times. "The sooner we have a universal vaccine the better because we can stop worrying about what the next pandemic will be."

But the scientists in this field still have a long way to go. The most advanced universal flu vaccine programs have only reached the stage of early clinical trials. And their primary benefit is limiting the spread of infection.

- read the article from the New York Times