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10,000 to be tested in world’s first trial for universal flu vaccine

PBR Staff Writer Published 04 October 2017

NHS patients are taking part in a world-first trial for a universal flu vaccine supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and delivered by the University of Oxford in Berkshire and Oxfordshire.

Jenner Institute of Oxford University and Vaccitech, which was spun out of it, had developed the new flu vaccine.

Over 10,000 people aged 65 and over will be asked to participate in the trial which targets to recruit 500.

Vaccitech co-founder and Oxford University Vaccinology professor Sarah Gilbert said: “Every year, flu in older adults causes serious illness and sometimes death.

“We want to improve the situation, but in order to do that we need volunteers to help us test a new vaccine. If you are invited to take part, please consider doing so.”

According to the Oxford researchers, the vaccine could provide protection against flu, which affects nearly a billion people each year across the world while resulting in 250,000 to 500,000 deaths, primarily in the over-65 age group.

Oxford researchers say that present vaccines cater to only 30-40% of the age group as immunity declines with age. However, they believe that this problem can be solved by the new vaccine which has the potential to increase immunity.

Further, the scientists say that for people who take the jab and yet get the flu, the new vaccine could decrease the severity and duration of the disease.

It is believed the vaccine will offer a stronger resistance against flu because it uses a different mechanism to get the body to protect against the virus.

Unlike existing flu vaccines, the new vaccine has a different mechanism as it uses the core proteins of the virus located inside the cushion, instead of the surface proteins.

In all influenza A viruses, the core proteins remain virtually intact which provides scientists the scope to develop vaccines that work against all of them.

With the new vaccine, instead of antibodies, it is the immune system that gets stimulated to strengthen the influenza-specific T-cells to kill the virus.

Image: Oxford University has launched the first ever trial for universal flu vaccine. Photo: courtesy of National Institute for Health Research.