Researchers at Imperial College London have taken a step closer towards the development of a universal flu vaccine thanks to a new study on 2009 swine flu outbreak in which they found that people who have more virus-killing immune cells in their blood at the start of the pandemic avoided severe illness.
The researchers said that developing a vaccine that can stimulate the body to produce more of such immune cells could provide protection against all strains of flu viruses, even the new strains that cross into humans from birds and pigs.
The researchers added that the knowledge on how to increase the production of the immune cells, known as CD8 T cells, through vaccination already exists.
"Our findings suggest that by making the body produce more of this specific type of CD8 T cell, you can protect people against symptomatic illness. This provides the blueprint for developing a universal flu vaccine", lead researcher Professor Ajit Lalvani from ICL's National Heart and Lung Institute, said.