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Potential universal flu vaccine shows efficacy in clinical trial

Candidate will now move forward into late-stage testing

Vaccine vial

A new study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, has found a potential universal flu vaccine could soon be on the horizon after a candidate demonstrated promise in a small clinical trial.

The single-dose vaccine – named Flu-v – was found to be potentially effective and safe among a patient population of 175 volunteer participants.

Following the initial positive phase 2 results, the vaccine candidate will now progress to later-stage clinical testing to determine its efficacy against the flu.

Currently, the only vaccine against the flu is the ‘seasonal flu vaccine’, which is developed each year based on which strains experts predict will be the most common, to try and prevent as many infections as possible.

The process can be both time- and resource-consuming, with vaccines manufactured using eggs or cell cultures and the World Health Organization releasing the data on the most likely strains only a few short months before the flu season begins.

This in turn puts manufacturers on a very short time-scale to develop and distribute enough vaccines before the season begins.

Flu vaccine shortages can occur as a result, and the virus can sometimes mutate midseason which makes the vaccine ineffective.

The Flu-v candidate, on the other hand, targets common features found across a range of flu virus strains, making it potentially effective against all types of flu.

"We're on the cusp of a universal flu vaccine," said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious-diseases specialist and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

"It's long been a joke that a universal flu vaccine is always five years away. But I think, this time, it really is coming within the next five years," he added.

Last year, there was a delay in the WHO's strain recommendation and then in the subsequent manufacture of AstraZeneca’s paediatric flu vaccine, which led to concerns that the product would have to be rationed in the UK.

Delays such as this highlight the need for a universal flu vaccine, and a number of developers have been endeavouring to bring one to market.

A larger phase 3 trial of Flu-v will now go ahead to see if the vaccine can prevent 'real-life flu', rather than only increasing the number of antibodies against flu produced in an individual's body.

"This is a hugely successful study in a prestigious journal," said Adalja.

"But the next step is to see whether these antibodies are effective and how the vaccine works against real-life flu," he added.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

12th March 2020

From: Research

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