A century after one of history's most catastrophic disease outbreaks, scientists are rethinking how to guard against another super-flu like the 1918 influenza that killed tens of millions as it swept the globe, US News and ABC News reports.
While the report shares that there's no way to predict what strain of the shape-shifting flu virus could trigger another pandemic, researchers hope they're finally closing in on stronger flu shots. Scientists look for ways to boost much-needed protection against ordinary winter influenza and guard against future pandemics at the same time.
ABC News reports that labs around the country are hunting for a super-shot that could eliminate the annual fall vaccination in favor of one every five years or 10 years, or maybe, eventually, a childhood immunization that could last for life.
“We have to do better and by better, we mean a universal flu vaccine. A vaccine that is going to protect you against essentially all, or most, strains of flu," said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.
The report continued:
"Despite 100 years of science, the flu virus too often beats our best defenses because it constantly mutates.
Among the new strategies: Researchers are dissecting the cloak that disguises influenza as it sneaks past the immune system, and finding some rare targets that stay the same from strain to strain, year to year.
Scientists now think people respond differently to vaccination based on their flu history. 'Perhaps we recognize best the first flu we ever see,' said NIH immunologist Adrian McDermott.
The idea is that your immune system is imprinted with that first strain and may not respond as well to a vaccine against another.
'The vision of the field is that ultimately if you get the really good universal flu vaccine, it's going to work best when you give it to a child,' Fauci said."
Read more about how flu strains work and new vaccination development at US News.