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A new universal flu vaccine could protect against six strains of the flu virus

Researchers say this version of the vaccine could provide long-lasting benefits

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In the final months of 2019, experts were urging consumers to get the flu shot, as the virus hit earlier than expected. 

In an effort to avoid spending days under the weather, a new study conducted by researchers from Georgia State University found that a new version of the flu vaccine, dubbed the universal flu vaccine, could help protect against six different strands of the flu virus. 

“This nanoparticle antigen combination conferred mice with strong cross protection,” said researcher Ye Wang. “It can protect mice from different strains of influenza virus. Each season, we have different flu strains that affect us. By using this approach, we hope this nanoparticle vaccine can protect humans from different strains of influenza virus.” 

Flu season protection

To try to make the flu vaccine as comprehensive as possible, the researchers created a new version that contained two proteins that are most commonly associated with various strains of the flu virus -- matrix protein 2 ectodomain (M2e) and neuraminidase (NA). 

They explained that M2e is common to all variations of the flu virus. While NA is also a popular protein to focus on, it is often targeted less in variations of the flu vaccine. 

The researchers chose these proteins because they evolve rather slowly. Because the flu virus is always changing and the vaccine is always being updated, these two proteins are constants in the fight against the flu and would work in protecting consumers for longer periods of time. 

The researchers put their work to the test, injecting mice with the vaccine after exposing them to one of six different variations of the flu virus. 

Their line of thinking was successful. The mice, who all had different strains of the flu virus, were protected against it and developed long-term benefits. Four months after vaccination, the mice still proved to be free of the flu. 

“It’s important to mention that a lot of flu vaccines haven’t focused on NA before,” said researcher Gilbert Gonzalez. “NA is becoming a more important antigen for influenza vaccine research.” 

With this trial under their belts, the researchers hope to continue developing their vaccine to start testing it on humans. 

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