Universal flu vaccine moves one step closer

A new influenza vaccine has been developed by researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine that brings a universal influenza vaccine one step closer and would eliminate the need for seasonal flu shots.

The findings were published in the inaugural issue of the online journal mBio, published by the American Society for Microbiology.

"Current influenza vaccines are effective against only a narrow range of influenza virus strains," Peter Palese, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Microbiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, said. "This new vaccine brings us closer to our ultimate goal of a vaccine that protects against multiple strains."

Currently, seasonal influenza vaccines are strain-specific and target the globular head of the hemaglutinin molecule on the influenza virus' surface. This head is highly variable and in a constant state of change from strain to strain, which requires adjustments to vaccines each year.

Dr. Palese and his colleagues, the newly published study says, developed a vaccine using hemaglutinin without a globular head. The vaccine was then injected into mice, which were monitored for morbidity and mortality daily for 10 days.

All of the mice vaccinated with the headless vaccine survived. The unvaccinated mice died.

"Our results suggest that the response induced by this vaccine is potent enough to warrant further development toward a universal influenza virus vaccine," Dr. Palese said. "With further development and testing, we predict that a single immunization will in the future offer a sufficient defense against several influenza epidemics."