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Body's immune response to influenza leads scientists towards lifelong flu vaccine

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  • Body's immune response to influenza leads scientists towards lifelong flu vaccine

    Researchers in Melbourne have made a significant breakthrough in understanding the body's immune response to the influenza virus, which could pave the way for a universal vaccine that provides lifelong immunity against all strains of flu.
    Key points:

    • New flu vaccines needed every year due to virus regularly mutating
    • Scientists hope study of how T cells respond to virus could be harnessed in a vaccine
    • T cells identified are carried by 20 to 25 per cent of the population worldwide

    By focusing on how individual cells respond to various strains of the virus, they now have a clearer picture of how vaccine ingredients could be used to identify and fight newly developing strains.
    Because the flu virus mutates regularly, health authorities are required to manufacture a new flu vaccine every year.
    The annual vaccine formula predicts what the major strains will be, but risks the possibility that a new strain could turn into a pandemic before the next vaccine can be produced.
    A team of Melbourne-based scientists have been researching exactly how cells in the body fight the flu virus, and how the powers of those cells can be harnessed in vaccines.
    Dr Stephanie Gras, from the Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University and part of the research team, said they were working to understand how memory cells within the immune system, called T cells, were able to recognise some parts of the virus that were most likely to be conserved between the strains.