Scientists Close in on Universal Flu Shot

Posted on July 31, 2011

3D image of Generic Influenza Virus

It's a yearly ritual: lining up for an annual flu shot. Predicting which flu virus strains will spread during the cold and flu season is one part science, two parts guesswork. If the scientists guess wrong, the flu shot may not protect you.

The holy grail is to find a universal flu shot that would protect against all influenza A viruses, and would only have to be taken once in a lifetime. Scientists in Britain and Switzerland are now closer to that goal. They have isolated an antibody that recognizes a specific glycoprotein that occurs in all 16 subtypes of influenza A viruses. The antibody neutralized both group 1 and group 2 influenza A viruses. Mice and ferrets who were given the antibody were protected from getting sick, which is quite impressive. The antibody is called FI6, and was found in the blood of a patient who is immune to influenza A viruses.

Approximately 36,000 people die from flu each year in the U.S., many of whom did not take flu shots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A universal flu shot would save many lives.

You can read an abstract of the findings, which were published in the journal Science, here.

Photo: 3D graphical representation of the biology and structure of a generic influenza virus from the CDC