Lifelong flu shot may soon be available for Canadians
Tuesday, November 22, 2016, 4:26 PM - Reducing the number of times you and your family miss time from work or school just got a boost as scientists say annual flu shots may soon become a thing of the past.
Researchers from the U.K., Australia, U.S. and Canada have teamed up to develop a universal vaccine that will offer lifelong protection to everyone from kids right up to adults.
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Currently, Canadian families head to their local doctor's office or pharmacy every year to get a flu shot that is designed to fight that season's variant of influenza. However, the team of scientists say a universal vaccine would decrease the chances of a flu pandemic. It would also save governments in publicly funded health systems millions of dollars as it would eliminate the need to develop and distribute a new one every year, which usually takes up to nine months, according to Dr. Matthew Miller, assistant professor of biochemistry at Hamilton's McMaster University.
"The current vaccines that we're using now essentially have to be remade every year because of the fact that the virus mutates really rapidly," Miller told CTV's Your Morning.
The hemagglutinin is the part of the virus that mutates and locks into cells. A seasonal flu shot offsets this process by forcing antibodies to bind the hemagglutinin and prevent it from infecting cells. Scientists say the trick is to target the stalk of the virus, where each hemagglutinin is attached.
The stalk does not mutate and is typically the same in most flu strains.
Miller says the next step is human clinical trials, where the "efficacy of this vaccine is going to be tested in a really robust way," the researcher told CTV.
To date, pre-clinical trials have been quite successful, added Miller. He estimates the universal vaccine could be on the market for kids and adults in the next five to 10 years.
Scientists say this research could also aid in the creation of a universal vaccine for HIV, an another global pandemic.
"The flu field and the HIV field have really been moving largely in parallel, exploring these new strategies to teach the immune system to find areas of these viruses that don't change over time."
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