A universal flu vaccine has eluded scientists for decades. Unlike other viruses, influenza has a rapid-fire mutation rate and thousands of different strains, which complicates the process. With several candidates now in development and a fresh batch of federal funding, researchers say a universal flu vaccine could be within reach.
Saint Louis University runs a quarantine unit dubbed “Hotel Influenza,” where researchers study how the human immune system fights the flu.
The push to develop a universal flu vaccine has intensified in recent years, given unusually severe flu outbreaks and emerging pandemic strains, like the swine flu.
But it has been a slow process, partly because researchers are testing multiple strategies as the virus continues to mutate, says Saint Louis University professor of infectious disease and internal medicine Daniel Hoft.
“It’s like running after a haystack that’s on the back of a wagon,” says Hoft, who is leading the Hotel Influenza study. “And it’s moving while you’re looking for the needle.”
Read more: Researchers Step Up Efforts To Develop A ‘Universal’ Flu Vaccine – NPR