Are scientists close to a flu vaccine?

It’s being called a potentially huge breakthrough in the world of scientists: a vaccine that could wipe out the common flu.

Two studies published this week in top journals suggest that there could be a universal vaccine for influence, which would represent the “holy grail” of immunization — flu kills a half million people each year, according to a Times of India report quoting statistics from the World Health Organization.

Flu has been responsible for many pandemics, including the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak that killed 20 million. The problem is that the virus mutates constantly, which is what present-day vaccines try to target, and which is why there is a new flu vaccine every year.

The studies were published in the journals Nature and Science and involved testing teh vaccines on mice, monkeys, and ferrets. They found that the stem of haemagglutinin-a protein remains largely the same even when the head changes, so they could create an immune reaction that could neutralize the virus.

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