An experimental vaccine designed to protect against several strains of the flu virus produced promising results in an efficacy study. NIAID investigator Matthew J. Memoli, M.D., conducted the study, which involved administering one or two doses of the experimental vaccine to one group of people and a placebo injection to another group of people, all healthy adults. All the volunteers were subsequently exposed to a strain of seasonal flu virus under carefully controlled conditions. The aim was to determine whether the experimental vaccine, FLU-v, reduces the chance of developing flu symptoms and viral spread.
FLU-v, developed by the London-based company PepTcell, is an example of a possible “universal” flu vaccine, which in an experimental way could provide long-lasting protection against most circulating flu strains. Current seasonal flu vaccines trigger the production of antibodies to a part of a virus surface protein, which varies widely from strain to strain and is constantly changing. For this reason, flu vaccines need to be reformulated and administered every year to adapt to newly emerging strains. In contrast, FLU-v is designed to induce a response from cell-mediated immunity.
The flu virus remains at the forefront of research because of the high morbidity and mortality associated with annual epidemics and sporadic pandemics. Seasonal flu is estimated to cause up to 79,400 deaths in the US and 291,243 to 645,832 deaths globally. Flu vaccination is the main method available to mitigate the effect of flu on the world population.