United States scientists work to create new universal flu vaccine

  • 02/03/2018

Each year the flu vaccine is adapted to target the likely strains of the disease for the next season, the problem is it's a bit of a guessing game.

Now scientists in the US are looking beyond the next year as they try to develop a universal vaccine that will target all types of flu.

Doctor Anthony Fauci, head of vaccine research at the US National Institutes of Health, says a new approach needs to be taken to create vaccines rather than the current traditional method.

"We've been using this technology of inactivated virus that you grow in chicken eggs, since the 1940s. This is antiquated," he told CBS News.

The current method of growing the virus inside eggs can take six months, far too long for a disease such as the flu which changes rapidly.

Dr Fauci's solution is to create a new universal vaccine which could last years or even an entire lifetime.

It's based on the way the molecules of a flu virus look, similar to mushrooms with a head and a stalk.

The current vaccine targets the head, but that is the part that is always changing. New research is focusing on the stalk which is far more stable.

"We may not ever get a perfect universal flu vaccine," Dr Fauci said. "But we have to have some version of a universal flu vaccine. We cannot accept that we won't get there."