Nov 29, 2022
Here’s how one experimental flu shot aims to target 20 viruses Transcript
Researchers say their experimental flu vaccine could target 20 viruses with one shot. What makes this vaccine different than the annual flu shot? Read the transcript here.
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Karen Weintraub (00:00):
For decades, scientists have been trying to develop a flu vaccine that will protect us against unforeseen flu pandemics.
What they’re proposing at the University of Pennsylvania now is a vaccine that could provide broad protection against all 20 different varieties of flu. Most of the vaccines protect against four different strains. The world experts have to guess in February what’s going to be circulating six months later in the US. Sometimes they’re wrong, and that’s why in the mismatch years, there’s a lot more flu and a lot more people die. The goal of this vaccine is to provide us protection against a pandemic. So in 1918, there was a global flu pandemic. Tens of millions of people died, and there was no way to protect against it because nobody could have foreseen it coming. So the idea of this vaccine is to give us all a baseline of some protection against all 20 different varieties of the flu. And that way, when we see a flu type, it won’t affect us as badly.
It’s been really hard to develop a vaccine that protects against many, many different flu strains. In part, because the flu virus mutates so much, there’s very little of it that stays consistent across these different strains, and so targeting one aspect of a flu virus that stays consistent hasn’t been feasible. In this case, what they’re doing is the kitchen sink, as the researcher told me. They’re using an mRNA platform, like we used with the COVID vaccines, and they can stuff a lot more into a single shot and protect us, theoretically, anyway, against these 20 different varieties.
They’re finishing up testing now on animals, and then they’ll move into people early next year, hopefully, so it’s still a ways away. The other big challenge is that regulators have never seen a vaccine like this that could be so broadly protective, and so trying to figure out how to regulate this, what makes it okay to approve, is going to be a challenge. It’s definitely going to be years, but it’s on the horizon, which is nice to know.
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