An emerging class of long-lasting flu vaccines could do more than just save people the trouble of an annual flu shot. Princeton University-based researchers have found that the "universal" vaccine could for the first time allow for the effective, wide-scale prevention of flu by limiting the influenza virus' ability to spread and mutate. Universal, or cross-protective, vaccines — so named for their effectiveness against several flu strains — are being developed in various labs worldwide and some are already in clinical trials.
The researchers recently reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the new vaccines would make a bout with influenza less severe, making it more difficult for the virus to spread. At the same time, the vaccines would target relatively unchanging parts of the virus and hamper the virus' notorious ability to evolve and evade immunity; current flu vaccines target the pathogen's most adaptable components.