Indian-origin scientist discovers universal flu vaccine
A team of researchers led by Professor Ajit Lalvani from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London have discovered a new way of combating viral flu infections. He has developed a roadmap to develop universal flu vaccine.
What is the approach to develop universal flu vaccine?
Scientists investigated why some people resist severe illnesses of influenza virus. They found that the people who evade severe flu illnesses had more CD8 T cells in their blood at the start of the pandemic. CD8T cells are a type of virus killing immune cell. They concluded that a vaccine which can stimulate the body to produce more of these cells could be effective at preventing flu viruses, including new strains that infect humans from birds and pigs.
How CD8T cells function differently than normal antibodies?
The specific quality of CD8T cells which renders it the potential to kill different strains of flu viruses is that it attacks the core of the virus unlike normal antibodies which target the surface of a virus. The flu virus rapidly changes its surface which makes older vaccine less effective. However, CD8T cells attack the core of the virus which remains the same. So, even if the virus changes its outer structure it would not affect the potential of CD8T cells to target them.