A universal flu vaccine is ready to be tested in humans and could end people needing yearly flu shots.
In a bad flu year, around 30,000 people in the UK die of flu or pneumonia, which can be a complication of flu.
Flu vaccines they are available on the NHS for the over 50s, pregnant people and those with certain health conditions, but do not cover all strains.
Instead, each year before the flu season begins, experts predict which strains are likely to be most common and select three or four to be included in the next seasonal flu vaccine.
Manufacturers then have to produce and distribute the vaccine, and in the meantime the virus could change, potentially making the vaccine less effective.
A universal shot that covers all flu strains could eliminate these stages and potential problems.
The jab is based on mRNA technology, which had its breakthrough moment with the success of COVID vaccines.
mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response within our body.
Read more: How COVID vaccine research fueled a huge leap in technological progress
The new universal flu vaccine uses a specific portion of an influenza protein, hemagglutinin (HA), to produce a broad immune response.
While one portion of the HA protein, known as the head, tends to change as the flu virus spreads and evolves, a more stable portion — the stem — evolves very slowly and is similar in many different types of viruses.
Using the HA root as the basis for a vaccine, researchers hope to induce long-term immunity against a broad range of influenza virus types.
Read more about vaccination:
Cancer vaccines using the same mRNA technology as COVID vaccines are a step forward for the UK
Innovative mRNA vaccine developed for cancer immunotherapy by Chinese scientists
The state of vaccination: Why 7,000 people died needlessly every day before COVID
Clinical trial volunteers in the United States are enrolled at the Vaccine Research Center operated by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
The trial will test different doses of the vaccine to determine the optimal dose, which will then be tested again.
The study will also include a group of people who will receive the regular seasonal flu vaccine.
NIAID Acting Director Hugh Auchincloss said a universal vaccine would be a “major public health achievement.”
In addition to potentially eliminating the need for annual shots, it has the potential to stave off a possible future pandemic.
“A universal flu vaccine could serve as an important line of defense against the spread of a future flu pandemic,” he said.