The flu has reached epidemic levels in 43 states, according to the CDC. File Photo by UPI/John Angelillo. | License Photo
NEW YORK, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Researchers at Mount Sinai Health System say a universal flu vaccine is currently in the works. While the vaccine has yet to prove it can protect humans, researchers say the science is sound and the vaccine may soon be a reality.
"We would hope that in a couple of years we'll have a universal flu vaccine," Mount Sinai Health System CEO and President Kenneth Davis told CNBC last week.
A universal flu vaccine would protect against all strains of the flu and would remain effective for at least a decade, maybe more.
"It could potentially protect someone for a whole lifetime," Dr. Peter Palese, the head of the microbiology department at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told ABC News this week.
The vaccine would protect against the myriad flu strains by attacking the base of each virus -- the part that doesn't change from year to year, strain to strain.
"That's very hard to do," Davis said. "What we have a vaccine for is producing antibodies that are somewhat different than what this flu is."
That strategy doesn't always work. This year's flu vaccine turned out to be only 33 percent effective, and mostly ill-equipped to protect people from this season's dominant strain, H3. The strain has already proven especially aggressive, worrying doctors that this year's flu season could be deadlier than usual. Several children in the Midwest have already succumbed to the influenza strain.
But while a universal flu vaccine sounds ideal, especially in the midst of an especially bad flu season, some scientists are skeptical.
"So far no one has been able to develop a vaccine that works against every type of flu," Dr. Richard Besser, the chief health and medical editor for ABC, told his employer. "I'd urge caution until scientists present data showing they've really been able to achieve this."