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A “HOLY grail” flu vaccine that could cure all forms of the disease including deadly bird flu has moved a step closer after a major breakthrough by scientists.
Not only could it prevent several strains of the annual winter virus and the lethal H5N1 strain of bird flu, it could also be the key to halt a pandemic and save millions of lives.
So significant is the breakthrough that experts say they could create such a vaccine in just two years.
The American research in question is indeed exciting given the dangers of potential influenza outbreaks, which can be hard to control as the virus can mutate (change) into new strains. The study has discovered antibodies that are active against some severe forms of human influenza. Giving these to healthy people in the event of an outbreak could give scientists sufficient time to develop an appropriate vaccine. However, the antibodies will need further research to determine whether they will be safe and effective in humans. Likewise, it will take more research to develop a safe vaccine that encourages the body to make these antibodies itself, rather than relying on the manufactured antibodies used in this study. Given the need for approaches to prevent and treat potential avian flu outbreaks, these areas will be keenly researched.