HealthWatch: Universal Flu Protection: Medicine’s Next Big Thing?


Medical experts recommend a seasonal flu shot for almost all of us. But every year– most people avoid getting the shot.

In healthwatch, chelly boutott tells us about new research on a vaccine that might make it easier for people to comply. 

Some would call it the holy grail of immunology.

Researchers in labs across the country are working to develop a one-time flu vaccination that would give people long-term protection from all strains of the flu. 

Now, researchers are trying to take the guesswork out of that vaccine development.

The flu virus spreads quickly. at best, you’re achy for several days. at it’s worst, the flu can kill. every year, a vaccine offers protection, but fewer than half of all adults get one.

(“my husband has had a bad reaction to them.”) 

(“i don’t see the value in getting it every year.”) 

 scientist kai (kigh) mckinstry wants to make immunization more effective for people.

kai mckinstry, phd, burnett school of biomedical sciences, ucf: “it should protect us season, after season, irrespective of what kinds of viruses happen to be floating around.” 

mckinstry is examining how the immune system responds. once a person gets sick from a pathogen, the body “remembers” it and is less likely to get sick from it again. 

kai mckinstry, phd: “we want to boost that memory. we want to turn it on, and we also want to make it as effective as possible.”

mckinstry and fellow immunologists are studying a group of white blood cells called t-cells.  in animals, t-cells have been shown to provide strong protection against the flu. 

kai mckinstry, phd: “the great thing about tcell immunity is it can recognize conserved parts of these viruses across many different strains.” 

 so even though the flu changes each year, one immunization that activates t-cells, could protect against all strains.

(“any of those things where you just get it once would be great.”) 

someday permanent protection against the flu and the misery it can bring.”

Professor mckinstry says it’s also important to consider the site of infection and since the lung is the infection site for flu, a nasal spray would be a good way to provide immunity.

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