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Scientists zero in on flu virus defences

Scientists have just got a clearer picture of the defences used by a key influenza virus to evade our immune system.

The findings reported today in the journal Science could lead to a new research approach in the holy grail of developing vaccines before new flu viruses evolve.

Influenza A/H3N2 is regarded as a nasty virus that has been infecting humans since 1968.

"Every few years we have a big outbreak of this particular virus," says Australian research team member Dr Ian Barr, deputy director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza in Melbourne.

"For example in 2012 we had quite a big influenza season and the majority of that influenza was caused by this type of virus."

In an effort to understand better how flu viruses like this mutate and evade our immune system, Barr and colleagues took a close look at a protein called hemagglutinin (HA), which helps the H3N2 virus bind to cells in our respiratory system.

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