Dear Dr. K: I heard there is work being done on a one-time flu shot. Is this true?
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and with any luck, there may also be a one-time flu vaccine. Before I discuss this new research let me review the current vaccine.
Traditional influenza vaccines target the globular outer region of the viral hemaggluttinin protein. This part of the protein is constantly changing and accounts for the new strains of flu seen each year. Moreover, for each year’s vaccine to work, scientists must accurately predict these new strains so that the vaccine is effective.
The new vaccine research is targeting the stem of the hemaggluttinin protein, which rarely changes. This stem protein is found across the board in all influenza strains. Thus, eliciting antibody production to this common protein will create broadly neutralizing immunity to all flu viruses. Therefore, one vaccine will prevent all types of flu.
Researchers have already tested this vaccine in mice and it protected them from a lethal dose of flu. If further tests in animals have success, human studies will soon follow.