Vaccination Nation: One And Done

FRESNO, Calif.

"My kids were perfectly healthy. They had no underlying health problems whatsoever," Katrina Mcintosh told Ivanhoe.

Three weeks after catching the flu, both of Katrina's children were dead. The flu kills a worldwide average of 500,000 annually, with more than 36,000 here in the U.S. Experts encourage vaccination but those shots need to be given every sixmonths. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health are hammering out a universal flu vaccine.

"We could immunize once or twice early in life, and give a life-time of protection," Gary Nabel, M.D., Ph.D, explained.

Imagine the flu virus looks like a lollipop. While the head mutates constantly, the base does so rarely. Experts attacked the base by dosing animals with a vaccine made from flu DNA, and then another vaccine made from a weakened cold virus is added. Thisprime boost method may allow for the destruction of multiple flu strains.

"The approach is to try and target parts of the virus that are shared among those different strains that circulate from year to year," Dr. Nabel said.

In recent experiment with mice, ferrets and monkeys, Dr. Nabel killed off a flu virus from 2007 andone from 1934.

"Normally, we have a vaccine that only protects for one or two years," Dr. Nabel said.

For us, the vaccine is still years away. That means your best bet to beat the bug this year is to wash up and cover your mouth.

Clinical trials of this vaccine are now underway in humans. It could actually be commercially available in the next five years.

Anne A. Oplinger – Media Contact
National Institutes of Health

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