Treatments

One Shot Fit For All Flu

Life would be so much easier if you could get a shot as a youngster that would protect you against flu for decades.

Let's just do this once.

Let's just do this once. iStockphoto.com hide caption

itoggle caption iStockphoto.com

The wily flu bugs change so fast, though, that traditional vaccines need to be tailor-made for each flu season. Even then, they often miss the mark.

The Baltimore Sun's Stephanie Desmon writes researchers are making progress on a universal flu vaccine that would work against all sorts of flu viruses, though a version suitable for humans still seems a long way off.

For a vaccine to be a durable defense against flu, it will have to attack something the viruses can't do without. One lead, for influenza A at least, is to block the old "M2 ion channel," a pipe for hydrogen ions that the viruses needs to infect cells.

In animal tests this kind of vaccine helps reduce deaths, even when it doesn't prevent illness. "The mice are getting influenza, but they're not getting as sick as they would if they hadn't gotten the vaccine," Robert Belshe, a researcher at St. Louis University's vaccine center, tells the Sun.

Then there's the little problem of the swine flu, which Johns Hopkins flu researcher Andre Pekosz told the New York Times a few months ago, "could throw a little bit of a wrench into things" because it might not be susceptible to an M2-style vaccine.

Earlier this year some researchers had success with a different tack, screening antibodies that could block infection with viruses that included swine flu and the 1918 Spanish flu.

The National Institutes of Health's Anthony Fauci called the laboratory findings a "very important conceptual advance," but cautioned they needed to be made practical.

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