A universal flu jab is ready to be tested on humans and could put an end to people needing annual flu vaccinations.
In a bad flu year, around 30,000 people in the UK die from flu, or from pneumonia, which can be a complication of flu.
Flu vaccines are available on the NHS for over-50s, pregnant people and those with certain health conditions, but they don’t cover every strain.
Instead, every year before flu season starts, experts predict which strains are likely to be more common and select three or four to be included in the next seasonal flu vaccine.
Manufacturers then need to make and distribute the vaccine – and in the meantime the virus may change, potentially making the vaccine less effective.
A universal jab that covers all flu strains could eliminate these stages and potential problems.
The jab is based on mRNA technology, which had its breakthrough moment with the success of COVID vaccines.
mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies.
The new universal flu vaccine uses a specific portion of a flu protein, hemagglutinin (HA), to produce a broad immune response.
While one portion of the HA protein, known as the head, tends to change as the flu virus spreads and evolves, a more stable portion – the stem – evolves very slowly and is similar across many different types of the virus.
By using the HA stem as the basis for a vaccine, researchers hope to induce long-term immunity against a broad range of flu virus types.