A new vaccine may be able to provide some protection against all strains of influenza.
Current immunizations create antibodies that target a specific piece of a molecule on the surface of the virus that researchers call its “head.” That piece of the hemaglutinin protein evolves very quickly, which is why you have to get a different flu shot each year as new types of flu develop.
The next-generation vaccine causes antibodies to go after a piece of the hemaglutinin that changes less often and that is present in many influenza strains. Researchers are calling them “headless HA” vaccines, and they could be the key to a universal flu shot.
Mice immunized with the new vaccine survived a flu that killed unprotected mice.
“Our results suggest that the response induced by headless HA vaccines is sufficiently potent to warrant their further development toward a universal influenza virus vaccine,” Peter Palese of Mt. Sinai Medical School, who led the effort, said in a press release. “Through further development and testing, we predict that a single immunization with a headless HA vaccine will offer effective protection through several influenza epidemics.”
The early research appears in the new open access journal mBio. In a commentary accompanying the paper, two Italian researchers suggested that many other types of disease that currently require multiple vaccines may soon have broader solutions.