While the flu jab is great and has certainly saved many lives, it has its limitations. For one, the vaccination needs to be updated each year as the virus mutates, and secondly it might not be designed to catch every strain of flu in any one season.
But researchers say they are getting closer to a novel method of protection that would reduce the severity of the flu – or even prevent it altogether – without the need for a flu shot.
As you know, the vaccine works by giving you a weak dose of the influenza virus, which triggers your body to produce the antibodies you need to protect against the infection.
But researchers say we may be able to trigger this response without a vaccine.
Jacob Yount, assistant professor at Ohio State University is senior author of a study that suggests we can do this by manipulating a specific protein in the human body.
The most exciting aspect of the research is that the treatment would be universal and would not need to be updated each year.
“The flu vaccine needs to change every year because the virus is constantly mutating. What we’re doing is targeting a more fundamental process that is not specific to any particular strain of the virus,” said Assistant Professsor Yount.
After demonstrating in human cells that they could alter the role of one protein that could stop the virus, his team has been using experimental drugs to test this flu treatment strategy in mice.
Human use is still many years away, but the long-term goal is to develop a way of preventing flu infections, without the need for an annual vaccine.
Do you get an annual flu jab? Do you find it effective? Does it knock you about for a few days?