Purdue researcher working to eliminate need for annual flu vaccination

A comparative pathobiology professor at Purdue University is working toward eliminating the annual seasonal influenza shot.

Dr. Suresh Mittal has been working on his own influenza vaccine for close to a decade. He began his work in 2002, when H5N1 avian influenza became a major concern. If successful, Mittal's vaccine would eliminate some of the problems inherent in current influenza vaccines, according to PurdueExponent.com.

Current seasonal flu vaccines require groups of scientists to predict which strains will be most prevalent during the next flu season. They must make their decisions up to six months in advance. The seasonal vaccine must be changed every year, and if the strains mutate, or a different strain becomes prevalent, the vaccine becomes entirely ineffective.

"Since these vaccines are much more strain specific, they cannot take care of the viruses which mutate and become slightly different," Mittal said, PurdueExponent.com reports.

Mittal said that his goals are to make a vaccine that has a long shelf life and that can protect against a wide range of influenza strains and types. He is using parts of the virus common to all strains in order to develop his new vaccine. Because it protects against many strains, the vaccine could be potentially be effective for a number of years and eliminate the need for a new jab every flu season.

"Instead of getting a vaccine every year, we could get vaccinated every three years," Mittal said, PurdueExponent.com reports. "We are taking some genes from the influenza virus so that we can have the antibody response and the cell based response, so it is a balanced response."