Today, independent teams reported inScience and Nature Medicine how they’ve tinkered with a piece of viral protein so it can teach immune systems—in this case, in mice, ferrets, and monkeys—to fight whole groups of viruses rather than just a single strain. “It’s a great first step in the road for generating a universal flu vaccine,” says Gary Nabel, who oversaw one of the studies as former head of the National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center.
How much better is this than the current flu vaccine? The current flu vaccine was only 23% effective last year and it only protects against three different flu virus strains.
Even if the vaccine is highly effective in humans, the efficacy will only last until the influenza virus mutates once again to overcome the vaccine. Nevertheless, many years with few or limited influenza outbreaks would be a welcome respite for world health.