Universal 'holy grail' flu vaccine could be in sight

Researchers using cutting-edge technology could be close to developing a universal flu vaccine, according to the PBS News Hour.

Researchers at the Vaccine Research Center, part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., have used virtual reality to magnify influenza to over 200 million times its actual size. The aim is to target the part of the virus that stays the same from strain to strain, which is easier to find due to magnification.

Public health officials currently develop a new version of the influenza vaccine every year, since the virus mutates with each season and is thus immune to the previous year's vaccine. Occasionally, a "novel strain" emerges that can cause a global pandemic, such as the 2009 swine flu outbreak. The potential universal vaccine could protect against all known and unknown strains.

The NIH began testing its most recent universal flu vaccine on humans in May 2019. Researchers are waiting to see whether patients' immune systems will respond with a strong defense.

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