A new process to make a one-time, "universal" flu vaccine has been developed by Georgia State and South Korean researchers. The vaccine should be able to learn to recognize any type of flu virus, instead of current methods, which create seasonal vaccines.
Seasonal flu vaccines are created every year to match expected strains of the virus. The researchers' new method uses recombinant genetic engineering to create the one-time vaccine using a small fragment of the virus that isn't seasonal. The fragment is a portion that does not vary among different flu strains. The research has been published in the journal Molecular Therapy.
"We can now design a vaccine that makes it easier to induce a good immune system response to recognize a pathogen, regardless of how the surface proteins of the virus change," said Sang-Moo Kang, co-author of the study and an associate professor at Georgia State University's Center for Inflammation, Immunity, and Infection.
This new method, Kang stated, would be safer for young children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems than current methods that use live viral vaccines or a dead virus. He also asserted that the method could prevent shortages of flu vaccine, such as the one seen during the 2009 "swine flu" outbreak.
"Outbreaks of pandemic can be a dangerous situation, and our current vaccination procedures are not perfect," said Kang.