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Working to create a universal flu vaccine


Exactly one week ago, I found myself unable to get out of bed. I was shaking despite being tucked under mountains of blankets; my head was pounding despite having taken numerous doses of Tylenol. I had gotten the flu and was bitter: Not only was my illness going to derail my weekend's plans, but I had gotten a flu shots several weeks prior. How unfair, I thought.

The flu shot, of course, doesn't provide protection against every strain of influenza, and scientists have been on a quest for years for a "universal vaccine" that can offer broader protection. Earlier this week, Stanford researchers announced that they've taken important steps towards the creation of such a vaccine. "Their approach arises from a better understanding of the structure of a key protein on the surface of the flu virus and a new process for making vaccines based on that understanding," Tom Abate writes in this School of Engineering release, which goes on to describe the details of the work.

Abate cautions in the piece that "many steps remain before the research community knows whether this... approach yields a better flu vaccine." But the lead researcher said he and colleagues are committed to the effort. “This is an important project for world health,” James R. Swartz, PhD, said.

Previously: Flu-vaccine study participant shares his experience, Ask Stanford Med: Answers to your questions about seasonal influenza, Dynamic duo: Flu vaccine plus adjuvant bolsters immunity, European experts debunk six myths about flu shot and Universal influenza vaccine, maybe – eternal, maybe not
Photo of Swartz by Joel Simon

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