LONDON, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- Researchers have found an approach that can lead to a novel type of universal flu vaccine, according to a study released on Friday by the University of Oxford.
When it comes to influenza, there is always a paradox -- it is thought of as being highly variable while in reality influenza seasons are dominated by only a few strains.
A team from the University, based on mathematical models, theorized that parts of the virus targeted by the immune system are, in fact, limited in variability and act as constraints on the evolution of the virus.
By identifying the location of these regions of limited variability, the team has shown that such locations are targeted naturally by the immune system and through vaccination studies has shown that regions of influenza viruses that circulated in 2006 and 1977 were able to protect against infection with an influenza virus that last circulated in 1934.
The results of these studies can be exploited to create a novel type of universal or broadly protective influenza vaccine, which once administered would provide lifelong protection against influenza.
The team also hopes to apply the approach to other viruses such as HIV and HCV and believes that they can use it to produce a vaccine that protects against the common cold.
"The integrated approach to vaccine design that we have applied to flu has the potential to be applied to other previously intractable pathogens and could revolutionize the way we develop vaccines," said Dr Craig Thompson from the University of Oxford.
The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.