Influenza causes seasonal mortality and is also responsible for sporadic pandemic events. Developing vaccines which provide a universal immunity to the different variants of influenza has been a key aim for research in this field.
A universal influenza vaccine could reduce both seasonal and pandemic influenza mortality. This is because an effective vaccine stockpile could be utilised at the early stages of an outbreak instead of having a delay of around 6 months to develop a new vaccine for a novel influenza strain during a pandemic (Arinaminpathy & Mclean 2007).
Researchers have discovered that a type of immune cell called CD8 T cells (which target the conserved core of the influenza virus), provided cross-protection against multiple strains of influenza (Sridhar et al., Nature Medicine 2013).
Hence if vaccines could stimulate the growth of these cells or the molecules which the cells produce that confer the protection to influenza, a universal influenza vaccine could be developed. It is thought that this could be possible over a 5 year time horizon.