News / Health

Human Trials Start for Universal Flu Vaccine

Multimedia

Vidushi Sinha

The World Health Organization says about 500,000 people die every year from seasonal flu. To combat that, doctors recommend getting a flu vaccine at the beginning of each flu season and researchers are now working on a universal vaccine that could protect people from all strains of the flu.  What's more, they say the vaccine could work for several years.

This pediatrician's office in Atlanta, Georgia is busy taking calls.

The state of Georgia in southern United Sates has reported the nation's most number of flu cases this year. Influenza viruses are unpredictable and this year, health officials say they are seeing several strains.

Dr. Jennifer Shu is with Children's Medical Group in Atlanta. "In our office, we are seeing influenza B, plus an influenza A strain, which I believe the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) says most of that circulating right now is H3N2, although there is some that's H1N1," she said.

To guard against the flu, health officials recommend vaccines before the each  flu season for everyone six months and older .  This year's vaccine protects against all the strains of flu circulating right now, but scientists have to make an educated guess about which flu virus will circulate next year. Then new vaccines will have to be produced .

Researchers working on the universal flu vaccine say that yearly flu shots will become a thing of the past if a new vaccine proves successful. Dr. Anthony Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Washington.

"The concept has been proven in mice and ferrets and in monkeys that you can actually do that. It is very likely since studies have already been started in humans that we can illicit that type of immune response in humans," he said.

When the scientists gave the vaccine to ferrets, the animals produced antibodies that protected them against a wide range of flu strains. Dr. Fauci explains the science of this vaccine.

"There is a part of the virus called the stem. So if this is the bulb - this is the stem [shows using his hand]. We were able to identify part of this hemagglutinin that doesn't change from one virus to another. So we determined, can you make an antibody response against that stem, and the answer is yes you can," he said.

Flu viruses can mutate faster than vaccines can be made using current technology.  That's how epidemics get started.

But researchers say if this universal vaccine is successful in human trials, it will provide protection from all strains of the influenza virus.  What's more, it could be given to children and provide protection over the better part of their lives.
Again, Dr. Fauci.

"The work is important because the concept that you could vaccinate with a component of a vaccine of the virus that was a 1999 strain and illicit antibodies that in mice and in ferrets and other animal models protect in everything from 1934 and 2007 is a very important concept," he said.

In 2009, vaccines were in short supply when the H1N1 circulated around the world. Production was slow because scientists must first grow the virus in millions of eggs, and the process takes a long time.

But scientists say a universal vaccine will not rely on growing viruses in eggs. They will produce it by using the genetic sequencing of the flu, so it will be available faster, fewer people will get sick and die and it will be much cheaper than producing a new flu vaccine every year.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid