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Will there be no more flu soon?
Will there be a universal flu vaccine in the future? A group of international scientists has now made a discovery that could enable the development of a universal flu vaccine. The annual vaccinations could thus be replaced by long-term protective vaccinations.
In their current investigation, the doctors at the University of Melbourne discovered immune cells that could make it possible to develop a universal flu vaccine. The experts published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Nature Immunology".
What are killer T cells?
In view of the high number of infections, the lack of treatment options and the annual deaths, effective vaccines have been sought for years that protect against all strains of the influenza virus. The researchers' work has focused on developing a universal influenza vaccine that does not require an annual reformulation. A subset of white blood cells, which is also assigned to the killer T cells, provides immunity for all different types of influenza viruses that infect humans. The findings from this study could be used in the future to develop a universal influenza vaccine. In essence, doctors have identified the parts of influenza viruses that are common to all strains and to which the special killer T cells (CD8 + T cells) can also respond.
Why is it so difficult to develop a universal vaccine?
T cells are a type of white blood cell that is designed to examine the body for abnormalities and infections. They are a vital part of the human immune system. So-called killer T cells have the ability to target and kill infected cells. By using a scanning technique called mass spectrometry, the scientists were able to identify parts of the flu virus that are found in all strains of the flu. Developing a long-lasting flu vaccine is usually very difficult because the virus continues to mutate, which means that the body is unable to find a permanent way to fight the virus after a single or repeated exposure.
Killer cells have already been activated in experiments on mice
The team of experts believes it may be possible to use this knowledge to develop a vaccine that can work around the problem. The researchers have already been able to activate the killer T cells in mice in animal experiments. In this way, the flu virus and inflammation in the animals' airways could be significantly reduced. However, there are also some restrictions that could make it difficult to develop a universal flu drug. The special CD8 + T cells occur only in 50 percent of the world population. The next step is to use the same methods used in this study to identify additional killer T cells that can respond to all strains of flu, developing a universal influenza vaccine for all people. (as)