March 4, 2013 12:13 am
Lifelong vaccines protect against polio, smallpox and rubella, which begs the question of why a long-lasting universal vaccine has yet to exist for influenza.
The quick answer: Influenza is one clever family of viruses. But researchers continue making progress in developing a more comprehensive, long-lasting vaccine, which the National Institutes of Health has set as a national health care priority.
Influenza is the viral version of Jesse James — dangerous, often deadly and elusive. Multiple versions of the virus exist, each with an evolutionary knack for disguising itself so it can slip past the immune system’s security detail.
The NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases lists about eight researchers, including a former University of Pittsburgh professor, who are focused on developing a new flu vaccine. But human clinical trials aren’t likely for another five years, which pushes public availability of a universal vaccine to a decade or longer.