Scientists announced on the 18th that they have identified immune cells capable of combating all known influenza viruses, marking an "extraordinary breakthrough" that could lead to the development of a single-dose, broad-spectrum influenza vaccine.
Seasonal influenza is a major health concern, causing tens of thousands of deaths worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Due to the continuous mutations of influenza virus strains, vaccine formulations must be regularly updated, and the protection provided by current vaccines is limited.
Australian researchers revealed that "killer T cells," present in over half of the global population, proved effective in combating various influenza variants during experiments. This discovery suggests that these cells could be used to develop a broad-spectrum influenza vaccine, eliminating the need for annual adjustments to the formula and proving effective for individuals lacking these cells.
Marios Koutsakos, a researcher at the Doherty Institute of the University of Melbourne, stated, "Influenza viruses constantly mutate to avoid recognition by the immune system, and their diversity is significant. Therefore, it is almost impossible to predict and vaccinate against the virus strains that will cause the next wave of influenza."
T cells are a type of white blood cell that patrols the body to identify abnormalities and infections. Killer T cells, in particular, can directly attack and kill other infected cells. Koutsakos and his colleagues used mass spectrometry analysis to identify viral components common to all influenza strains and found that killer T cells were effective against A-type, B-type, and C-type influenza variants.
The research team has applied for a patent for their discovery, expressing hope that these cells will aid in the development of a broad-spectrum influenza vaccine, ultimately "reducing the global impact of pandemic and seasonal influenza."