Universal flu vaccine in the works

September 7, 2011 5:42:28 PM PDT
Flu season is ahead, but this year the big news is coming from Galveston. UTMB researchers are testing a universal flu vaccine that you would need to take only once, not every year! The new vaccine uses technology that could be used to make other vaccines rapidly.

Who isn't tired of getting a flu shot every year?

"Who likes getting shots?" Houstonian Catalina Castro said.

What if you could take a flu shot just once and it kept working no matter how the flu viruses changed? Dr. Christine Turley has been working on the universal flu vaccine at UTMB for five years. She's done the first in-humans tests of it.

"By the second dose of vaccine, 100 percent of those individuals had protective, what we think would be protective levels, of antibodies," she said.

It was pretty exciting for study patients like Christal Garcia and Amanda Hancock who took it four years ago.

"I know I haven't gotten the flu," Hancock said.

Not even the swine flu, although study patients were required to continue annual flu shots. But Dr. Turley says it's clear the universal flu vaccine is working.

"It's a game changer. I mean it really has huge implications for the United States but also for the entire world," she said.

And what they learn in this lab, where they're working on the universal vaccine, is already being applied to the standard vaccine to help them make it faster.

The new technology doesn't involve growing eggs.

"The federal government is very interested in that technology because it allows us to quickly make a vaccine, to be able to have a vaccine that could be immediately changed if needed for a pandemic for instance," Dr. Turley said.

She says hundreds of millions of doses could be made in weeks. It's the future, one that's just a few years away.

In the US alone, the flu kills some 40,000 people a year. Worldwide, the flu kills millions. That's why the gates foundation is helping fund UTMB's universal flu vaccine research.

Load Comments