A team led by a scientist of Indian origin made a roadmap to develop universal flu vaccine. The influenza virus that causes flu is considered to be one of the world's most rapidly changing organisms. Flu vaccines tend to be ineffective after every season and can’t cure cough, cold and other complications. Therefore, scientists planned new vaccines with new strains of the virus each year.
A team led by professor Ajit Lalvani from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London used a 2009 pandemic virus strain to analyse why some people appear to resist severe illness, to create the world's first universal flu vaccine. The volunteers were asked to donate blood samples just as the swine flu pandemic was in progress so that their response could be analysed over the next two flu seasons.
The scientists discovered those who avoided severe illness had more CD8 T cells in their blood at the start of the pandemic. CD8T cells are a type of virus killing immune cell. A vaccine that stimulates the body to produce more of these cells could be effective at preventing flu viruses, including new strains that infect humans from birds and pigs.
The immune system produces these CD8 T cells while responding to usual seasonal flu. Unlike antibodies, they target the core of the virus, which doesn't change, even in new pandemic strains. This provided the blueprint for developing a universal flu vaccine.
Scientists planned to stimulate the immune system to make CD8 T cells by vaccination.
The flu vaccines make the immune system produce antibodies that identify structures on the surface of the virus to stop infection with the most common circulating strains. However they have to be replaced each year as new viruses with different surface structures evolve.