What if we could obtain a single flu shot that protects us from all, or at least most, influenza viruses? That may one day become reality.
Scientists have discovered a flu "superantibody" that could pave the way for the development of a universal flu vaccine, Reuters reports.
The superantibody, called FI6, can combat all kinds of influenza A viruses, which sicken humans and many animals.
Until a universal flu shot is developed, vaccine manufacturers must change their formulas every year, according to the strains of flu that pose the biggest threats. As Reuters reports, the process is cumbersome and costly, whereas a universal vaccine could protect people against all kinds of flu for years, or even for their entire lifetime. It would also be a powerful tool against possible future pandemics.
"As we saw with the 2009 pandemic, a comparatively mild strain of influenza can place a significant burden on emergency services," John Skehel of the National Institute for Medical Research in Britain told Reuters. "Having a universal treatment which can be given in emergency circumstances would be an invaluable asset."
In Canada, many people don't bother getting their annual flu shots. Last year, three out of four Canadians said they didn't believe the H1N1 vaccine was necessary. And despite assurances from health officials of their safety, some people have lingering fears that vaccines may even cause harm. (A British study that contributed to widespread fears against vaccines by linking autism to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination has since been discredited.) Last year, the Canadian Community Health Survey showed 6 per cent of Canadians didn't get vaccinated out of fear.
So even if scientists were able to create a universal flu vaccine, the question is, would you get one?