A Universal Flu Vaccine
Fear of global flu pandemic spurs universal vaccine research
Vaccines for the flu, or influenza, are still only 20 to 60 percent effective. Researchers across the world are trying to develop a universal and longer-lasting solution to the potentially deadly virus.
"I mean, I had never heard that the flu would kill somebody like her", says Gwen Zwansiger, who lost her daughter Shannon to the virus three years ago. Within a week of coming home from school with a sore throat, Shannon's organs were destroyed by the virus. "Every year, you have to reevaluate whether the vaccine that you made for the prior year is actually now matched to the virus that you predict will be circulating in the coming year", says Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the Infectious Disease division of the US National Institutes of Health. "That's totally unique. You don't have to worry about that with polio or with mumps or with measles or anything like that", he says, proposing development of a new once in a lifetime vaccine. In 1918 the worst flu pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide. Easily transmitted by just a cough or a sneeze, if another pandemic strikes, the toll could be much worse. "When pandemic flu hits, it's one where everyone is vulnerable. Everyone's susceptible", says epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, who hopes that any expensive solution will still secure industry help.