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NIH agency's priority: Developing universal flu vaccine

By Allen Cone
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is pushing for a universal influenza vaccine that can protect all age groups against a multiple of influenza strains more than one year. File photo by Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/1ca3f9395c32d855b8ab3f2efc74d511/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is pushing for a universal influenza vaccine that can protect all age groups against a multiple of influenza strains more than one year. File photo by Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 28 (UPI) -- The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has announced a new priority: developing a universal influenza vaccine that can protect people of all ages against multiple flu strains.

The NIAID, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, on Wednesday detailed a new strategic plan for addressing the research areas essential to creating a safe and effective universal influenza vaccine. The agency also published a paper Wednesday in The Journal of Infectious Disease.

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The federal agency noted a universal flu vaccine must meet four criteria: be at least 75 percent effective, protect against group I and II influenza A viruses, protect for at least one year and work for all age groups.

The scientific goals to support advanced influenza vaccine development, including clinical studies in animals and humans, follow a flu-centered NIAID workshop in June 2017. It included scientists from academia, industry and government.

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In the workshop, they defined universal influenza vaccine criteria and pinpointed knowledge gaps and how to confront them.

They noted the limitations and difficulties in developing vaccines for specific influenza strains each year.

"However, this approach has limitations and difficulties," NIAID said in a release. "To reduce the public health consequences of both seasonal and pandemic influenza, vaccines must be more broadly and durably protective."

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NIAID noted advances in influenza virology, immunology and vaccinology over the past 10 years make the development more feasible.

NIAID will focus resources on three research areas:

1) Better understanding the flu's transmission, history and pathogenesis.

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2) Determining the cause of protective immunity

3) Designing immunity-boosting and durable universal influenza vaccines.

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