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UW-Madison study could spell the end for yearly flu vaccine

A new experimental flu vaccine could be more effective at fighting more strains of influenza.
Published: Sep. 27, 2020 at 8:35 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - As flu season gets underway, a new UW-Madison vaccine study could mean a yearly flu shot will not be necessary for much longer.

Researchers are developing a new experimental vaccine which would be taken through the nose. The vaccine activates a different part of the immune system called T-cells, which can rapidly protect against multiple strains of influenza.

Marulasiddapa Suresh, a UW-Madison professor of immunology who led the research, said he hopes the vaccine could take the guesswork out of fighting influenza and even create a universal flu vaccine.

“What we are currently doing is we reconstitute our vaccines every year to match the circulating strains of influenza virus, and sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t get it right. That’s some kind of a gamble we always have to do, and there’s no other alternative right now,” Suresh said of the current process to develop flu vaccines.

The new vaccine has only been tested in mice, and more testing is necessary to make sure it is effective in other animals before it could be available to humans.

Suresh said further experiments had been scheduled, but those have been delayed because of COVID-19. He is hoping to reschedule those tests soon.

Suresh also said some early experiments show that a similar strategy used to develop the experimental flu vaccine could help develop a vaccine for COVID-19.

“By putting the SARS-Coronavirus-2 protein instead of the flu protein, we have been successfully making, inducing T-cells in the lungs so it’s very preliminary data, but it is very promising,” Suresh explained.

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