London: A universal flu jab may be available in just five years, if British scientists are to be believed.
A research team at Southampton University has already discovered molecules shared by most strains of the flu virus, a development it claims could help develop a vaccine with the potential of saving millions of lives.
The scientists identified the molecules after subjecting healthy volunteers to flu infections.
They found the participants` immune systems targeted a specific range of peptides or protein building blocks, within the internal structure of the flu virus, the `Daily Mail`
Harnessing the immune system`s response to the peptides could produce an all-encompassing multi-strain vaccine, say the scientists.
Team leader Dr Tom Wilkinson said: "Influenza is a virus that we know has a global impact, and the threat of further pandemics is a real one.
"Most influenza vaccines only protect us against known influenza strains by creating antibodies in the blood but the influenza virus has the ability to rapidly change itself and
new strains can emerge which rapidly spread across the globe by escaping this immunity.
"We have found that there`s an important role for T-cells that recognise the flu virus, which if harnessed could protect against most or all strains of seasonal and pandemic flu."
According to the scientists, the discovery would help improve vaccines for future strains of influenza, and protect against the next pandemic. "However there is more to do to
translate these findings into new approaches to treatment," he said.