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Melbourne University Student Discovers ‘Killer’ T-Cells That Can Fight Multiple Influenza Virus Strains

Breakthrough Offers Potential for Universal, One-Shot Flu Vaccine

A groundbreaking discovery by doctoral student Marios Koutsakos, just published in Nature Immunology, could lead to an influenza vaccine that doesn’t need to be updated each year. Koutsakos and researchers from Australia’s Doherty Institute and Monash University identified immune cells–killer T-cells–that can fight influenza virus types A, B, and C.

As the influenza viruses continuously mutate, and are extremely diverse, it makes it almost impossible to predict and vaccinate against the strain that will cause the next pandemic, say the researchers.

After identifying which parts of the virus are shared across all the flu strains, as well as sub-strains that can infect humans, they looked for robust responses to those viral parts in healthy subjects and in those infected with influenza. Their discovery revealed that killer T-cells offer unheard-of immunity across all flu viruses, which is a key element of a potential universal vaccine.

The research team also conducted vaccination tests to demonstrate the killer T-cells’ protective ability. Results indicated vastly reduced levels of flu virus and inflammation in the airways.

The team now has a patent on their discoveries, which will help them develop a universal influenza vaccine approach that can reduce the effects of pandemic and seasonal influenza worldwide.

Source: Doherty Institute, February 19, 2019

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