If like me, you thought that the constantly evolving nature of the flu virus meant that annual vaccination was a fact of life for high-risk patients – maybe we should both think again.
When you consider it – flu jabs are an unusual thing. Can you think of any other disease that requires an annual vaccination? Some, like protection from tetanus bacteria, may not have permanent effects – but lasting 12 months? Surely we can do better then that!
Part of the problem lies with the ever-changing nature of the flu virus and part, in the outdated technology used in production of the vaccines themselves.
The key to the potential breakthrough is the discovery of a part of the virus that remains stable and could provide a constant target for the immune system.
Existing flu vaccines target a part of the vaccine that regularly mutates. This poses real problems for healthcare authorities who need to try and second guess which strain will become prevalent in a given period and lay in stocks accordingly.
Although this approach has undoubtedly saved lives, there are occasions when the authorities get it badly wrong. It is also a very expensive process, with annual flu jabs costing the US upwards of $3 billion!
The new vaccine has shown promising results in animals but they could mean that in a few years, annual vaccinations could be a thing of the past.