University of Melbourne's associate professor Katherine Kedzierska says a discovery has been made on how flu-killing 'killer' cells can memorise strains of influenza
Is this the end of the flu season
【LWBS 2015 05 17 A】(SpringRain edited from Daily Mail Australia/Sally Lee) Breakthrough research by Australian scientists may have cracked the code to developing a single flu vaccine that will provide lifelong protection. A University of Melbourne-led research team says this could be possible after finding how flu-killing cells can memorise strains of influenza.
The discovery was made by researchers, also co-led by Fudan University in China, during the breakout of H7N9 in 2013 - one of several strains of bird flu known to be able to infect humans.
The 'killer' CD8+T cells are tasked by the body to take out new viruses, retaining memories of virus strains they encounter, University of Melbourne's associate professor Katherine Kedzierska said.
The research began during the first outbreak of H7N9 in China two years ago, which saw 99 per cent of people infected hospitalised with a 30 per cent mortality rate.
‘We'd never seen anything like H7N9,' she said.
'The virus was infecting more people rapidly and nobody had immunity. Thankfully, we did manage to contain the virus but we knew we had come face-to-face with a potential pandemic that could kill millions of people around the world if the virus became able to spread between humans.
'After collecting samples from infected patients we found that people who couldn't make these T cell flu assassins were dying. These findings lead to the potential of moving from vaccines for specific influenza strains toward developing a protection, which is based on T-cells.'
Ms Kedzierska says the breakthrough 'could lead to the development of a vaccine component that can protect against all new influenza viruses, with the potential for future development of a one-off universal flu vaccine shot'.
'This work will also help clinicians to make early predictions of how well a patient's immune system will respond to viruses so they can manage early interventions such as artificial ventilation more effectively, particularly in cases where the patient is at risk of dying,' she said.
The research was published in Nature Communications on Wednesday, 'Recovery from Severe H7N9 Disease is Associated with Diverse Response Mechanisms Dominated by CD8+T Cells'.
One of the corresponding authors Dr. Janqing Xu from Fudan University in China