"Forever" flu vaccine a step closer

February 24, 2009 6:39:41 PM PST
Now, researchers are reporting major progress in the fight against the flu, which kills 36-thousand Americans a year.

A promising new study could hold the key to developing a flu vaccine that would work once and for all. Scientists are a major step closer to creating ONE vaccine to protect against HUNDREDS of different flu strains.

The research coincides with word from the Centers for Disease Control of a sharp rise in flu cases - and some of those afre sick with a flu strain not covered by this year's vaccine.

Dr. Wayne Marasco, a researcher at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, says, "We have identified a common Achilles heel of all influenza viruses and this really allows us then to work on a universal vaccine that will get us lifelong immunity."

That's right. The potential for a flu vaccine you'd get ONCE and for all. No more shots every year. No more "re-formulating" vaccines every year to match the ever changing flu strains.

Dr. Daniel Sexton, of Duke Univ. Medical Center, says, "The current vaccines are inadequate. They don't cover all the viruses that exist in nature."

A universal vaccine would also protect against the much feared bird flu. Finding that one common target on so many different flu strains was made using mice infected with human influenza.

"It was one of those eureka moments where the science, the achievement had superseded our expectations," says Dr. Marasco.

Researchers hope to test the new vaccine in people within the next three years.

This year's flu season had been off to a slow start, but like last year, it quickly getting worse in late February In just one week, the number of states reporting widespread flu activity has jumped from 16 states to 23 states

In Colorado, four children have died from the flu in just the past few weeks.

Dr. Gershman, of the Colorado Health Department, says, "All so tragic, in that a previously healthy child should so quickly be lost from this world from something which most of us think is not a big deal. Flu. But is is a big deal."

And flu will continue be a yearly problem, say researchers, until a better vaccine is developed.

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