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In search of a lasting flu vaccine

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Every flu season, doctors and pharmacists must stock up on the latest influenza vaccine to offer patients. Unlike other vaccines that provide decades worth of protection, the flu vaccine needs to be administered every year. But researchers are looking to change this.

Dr. Sarah Gilbert and her colleagues of Oxford University are working to build a T cell-based vaccine that can attack the part of the flu virus that changes little from year to year. The scientists engineered a virus that can both recognize the proteins from one kind of virus and infect cells but not replicate, the Associated Press reports. This means the infected cells are put on display, but people who receive the vaccine do not grow ill.

"In the history of vaccinology, it's the only one we update year to year," Gary J. Nabel, the director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said (as quoted by the AP). "That's the goal: Two shots when you're young, and then boosters later in life. That's where we'd like to go."

In a clinical trial of a vaccine that prepares T cells to mount a strong attack against flu viruses, scientists vaccinated 11 subjects and exposed them to the flu. At the same time, they exposed all 11 unvaccinated volunteers. Two vaccinated people became ill, along with 5 unvaccinated ones.

Other researchers are working on vaccines that generate antibodies effective against many flu viruses.

- get more from the Associated Press

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