Tuesday, May 25, 2010

One Vaccine for All Flu Viruses

The flu gets people all over the world every year. It's because the flu virus (including variants) mutate and whatever vaccine that's been developed become useless. Every year, new flu vaccines have to be developed. This generates a lot of revenue to pharmaceutical companies, but it does little to make people at ease with themselves, knowing that the flu can get them at any time each year. But the situation may change soon. It's because researchers may be on the road to producing the world's first universal flu vaccine.

There has never been a universal flu vaccine before because of the mutations that viruses undergo. What researchers needed was a part of the flu virus that remained the same even after mutation takes place. It's a fact that scientists have known for a while that one part of the flu virus does not change - the neck part. The problem is that it's covered by a mushroom-like bulb. The solution? Remove the head and make a vaccine that targeted the exposed neck. Scientists at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York have done just that and experiments with vaccinated mice exposed to different flu strains have been successful, suggesting that it can also work for people.

Dr. Peter Palese, Dr. Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, and colleagues who are conducting the research say they are progressing "toward the goal of an influenza virus vaccine which would protect against multiple strains." The usual method is to use a mix of three flu vaccines to protect people from influenza strains (including A/H1N1). Now, with only one vaccine, it's possible to get immunized for years, perhaps even for a lifetime. If this is the case, then it could mean reduced income for pharmaceutical companies that churn out new flu vaccines every year. But at least, the world will be a much better place with less people getting the flu.

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