Single Jab poisonous flu vaccine on the way
Last updated at 11:18 AM on 6th November 2011
The prospect of a single flu vaccine that would protect against all strains of the virus for life has been revealed.
Scientists working on the universal flu jab, known as Flu-v, are in the early stages of development but hope to offer a product to the NHS within three to five years.
The company behind the drug, SEEK, will present the results of a small-scale clinical trial at the Influenza Congress in Washington DC on Tuesday.
Results so far have shown that it can significantly reduce infection rates and also cut the severity of symptoms.
Because flu is so changeable, pregnant women, the elderly and other ‘at risk’ groups are given a new injection every year.
The flu virus regularly mutates its ‘outer coat’, which is what a vaccine usually targets.
But the team behind Flu-v has managed to isolate a thread common to all strains of flu and by targeting that element, rather than the changing ‘outer coat’, the vaccine can cater for all requirements.
That means it would protect against strains of bird flu and swine flu, as well as seasonal variants.
‘The trial suggest was only need one shot of vaccine,’ Gregory Stoloff, the chief executive of SEEK told The Telegraph.
‘Our aim is for the flu vaccine to become more like the mumps and measles – where you only need it once and you get protection for a long time.’
Annual flu jabs cost the NHS around £100million per year.
Last year 600 people died as a result of winter flu epidemics, with asthmatics and people with liver disease also highly-prone to serious infection.
A single jab would also help reduce contagion, with government figures revealing this week that just one in three people in at-risk groups have taken up their annual vaccination.
New data from the Department of Health reveals more than half (55 per cent) of people over 65 have had the jab, which protects against several strains of flu including swine flu.
But only 32 per cent of those under 65 in at-risk groups – such as with diabetes, liver disease, asthma or chest problems and neurological conditions – have come forward.
And just 14 per cent of pregnant women have had the vaccine this year.
Data suggests diabetics are six times more likely to die if they get flu than a healthy person, while those with chronic heart disease are 11 times more likely to die.
People with chronic liver disease are 48 times more likely to die and those with undergoing medical treatment who may have a compromised immune system are 47 times more likely.