One-time jab to protect against all flu strains

The vaccine would fight not only the winter flu that leaves millions feeling miserable each year, but also deadly pandemic viruses.

These findings were presented at a conference held by the Royal Society, London.
The current flu jab protects only three-quarters of those immunised and needs to be reformulated each year to keep on top of changes in the virus.

It targets a lollipop-shaped head of a protein that sticks out from the surface of flu particles. The protein is key to infection, but the head constantly mutates, meaning it differs from strain to strain.

The new drug, developed at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Maryland, the US, uses DNA to trick the body’s immune system into producing antibodies against the ‘lollipop stick’. Unlike the head, the ‘stick’ changes little from strain to strain, which means one vaccine should protect against multiple strains of the virus.

Safety trials have begun on people and its effectiveness could be tested on patients by 2013. If the vaccine is as safe and powerful as the research team hopes, it should be in widespread use by 2015.

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