News / Asia

Australian Team Edges Closer to Universal Flu Vaccine

Ami-Louise Cochrane, center, receives a flu vaccination at Flinders Medical Centre, in Adelaide, Australia. (File Photo).
Ami-Louise Cochrane, center, receives a flu vaccination at Flinders Medical Centre, in Adelaide, Australia. (File Photo).
Phil Mercer
Researchers in Australia say they have made a breakthrough in the hunt for a universal flu vaccine, by finding a way to better protect against new strains of the virus. Around the world, annual seasonal influenza epidemics cause hundreds of thousands of deaths each year and many more bouts of serious illness. 

The “hit men of the immune system”, known as T-cells, could be the key to a universal flu vaccine, according to Australian scientists.

Their research involving scientists at the University of Melbourne, Monash University and the Netherlands focuses on how the influenza virus normally evades these white blood cells that protect the body from infection.  They hope that understanding how the virus evades T-cells will lead to the creation of a vaccine that recognizes distinct virus strains.

Such vaccines could provide universal immunity against influenza strains, leading to longer lasting and broader protection against seasonal and pandemic outbreaks.

Stephen Turner, a professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at the University of Melbourne, hopes the research will complement existing flu treatments. “The current vaccine that we have induces a sort of immunity that the virus can evade very easily through mutating itself and changing the targets.”

Current flu vaccines cause the body to produce antibodies for specific flu strains.

T-cells scan the surface of other cells to look for any hint of infection. However, they are usually ineffective at combating the influenza virus.

Turner says that researchers hope that new vaccines that target T-cells could provide universal immunity against influenza, instead of just a few specific strains.

“The problem with it is that the virus can change," Turner stated. "So, what we are looking at here is value-adding to the current vaccine such that we can generate not just the antibody immunity but also this more broadly protected T-Cell immunity in the event that the virus does change without us, sort of, being able to predict it.”

Clinical trials could start within five years.  Researchers hope their work into T-cell immunity will also improve their understanding of viral infections such as HIV, Hepatitis C and cancerous tumors.

Influenza is an acute respiratory disease.  Seasonal epidemics can result in up to five million cases of severe illness around the world each year and as many as 500,000 deaths.  Researchers say that a new flu virus can spread across more than 70 countries in just eight weeks.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid