A universal flu shot may be on the horizon.
A University of Pennsylvania researcher believes he has created a one-and-done vaccine that could fight against 20 influenza strains and last a patient’s lifetime, the school announced last week.
Dr. Scott Hensley and his team created the “multivalent” vaccine to establish immunity against all known flu strains, but it is not intended to replace the annual flu shots, the researchers explained in their published paper. Yearly shots are tailored to combat the strongest strain that year, but the university’s shot is intended to fight the next massive flu pandemic.
“The idea here is to have a vaccine that will give people a baseline level of immune memory to diverse flu strains, so that there will be far less disease and death when the next flu pandemic occurs,” Hensley said in a statement.
The CDC estimates the flu has caused 52,000 deaths annually between 2010 and 2020.
Researchers created the shot using the same technology Pfizer and Moderna used to make the COVID-19 jab. Rather than providing a “sterilizing” effect on individuals, the universal flu vaccine elicits a “memory immune response that can be quickly recalled and adapted to new pandemic viral strains,” the researchers said.
Hensley and his team have found success testing the jab on mice, even when the animals were exposed to flu strains different from those used in the shots they were given.
The team is planning on testing the universal vaccine on humans soon.
The vaccine is designed for people of all ages, but Hensely told the Philadelphia Inquirer that it would be the most effective when administered to children.
“If the vaccine is given early in childhood, it may provide an initial blessing of induced immunity,” Hensley said.