Scientists Move Closer to Lifelong Flu Shot
Will annual flu shots soon be a thing of the past? According to two new studies, a one-time injection providing lifetime protection against the common virus may soon be a reality.
Currently, in order for flu vaccines to be effective, they must be given every season. But now, research published in the journals Science and Nature found that animals became immune to the flu with just one vaccine shot.
The flu virus’s structure is unique. While its interior, or “stem,” stays consistent, the molecules on its outer surface constantly change. Current flu vaccines target these outer molecules, and therefore they need to be changed every year. A lifelong vaccine, by contrast, would focus on the the flu virus's stem. This has proven to be particularly difficult, but now scientists say they've been able to create a vaccine that did this in animals.
The next step would be human clinical trials, although that process could take several years. So, it still may be a while until we see a one-shot, lifelong vaccine; until then, medical experts recommend that people continue to get their annual flu shots.
According to the World Health Organization, each year the flu causes an estimated three to five million cases of severe illness and kills an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 people.
_This Week's Slice of History: _Taking on DDT: Aug. 29, 1962