Universal flu vaccine tested in Canada

A new flu vaccine is being tested in Manitoba, Canada, that would protect against multiple flu strains, allowing people to get only one flu shot in their life time.

Through funding from the Canadian Institute of Health Research, scientists have been conducting tests of the new vaccine on the elderly in Winnipeg in the past five weeks. The trials are done on elderly patients because they are at a higher risk of fatalities from the flu, Winnipeg's CTV News reports.

"The concept for a universal influenza vaccine was science fiction for a long time," Dr. Gary Kobinger of the Public Health Agency of Canada said, according to CTV News.

The vaccine was created using a computer program that collected data from flu strains dating back several decades. Traditionally, yearly flu vaccines only target specific strains, the new vaccine would protect against dozens of strains.

"We designed the vaccine to protect against all these different viruses in the past 100 years with the rational that if it works with all these viruses, it will work against all these ones we don't know yet," Kobinger said, CTV News reports.

The new vaccine would be synthetic, meaning it would have fewer side effects than current flu shots that contain egg proteins that can cause an allergic reaction in some patients.

The vaccine will have to go through three testing phases before being approved. Researchers estimate the vaccine could be available to the public in five to seven years.