Chinese discovery holds out hope of lifetime flu vaccine

Research was based on observations that some patients who contracted the H7N9 bird flu in 2013 were able to recover more quickly than others

Research carried out by scientists at the University of Melbourne in Australia, based on a discovery by researchers from China’s Fudan University during the avian flu breakout of 2013, offers the prospect of a vaccine that is expected to give lifetime protection from the common flu.

Research by the Australian scientists had unveiled that flu-killing immunity cells tend to memorise different virus strains, a clue that could help to develop a unique vaccine for lifetime protection against the flu. The team said the 'killer' CD8+T cells were tasked by the body with taking out new viruses and are able to memorise distinct strains.

These Lymphocyte T CD8+ cells 'are like hit men of our immune system' and they can efficiently eliminate the virus-infected cells, according to Katherine Kedzierska, research team leader from Melbourne University. 'This is the first time we have shown that those killer T-cells are important in protecting against very serious disease very early on in the infection.'

In collaboration with the Shanghai Public Health Centre and Fudan University in China, the research was based on observations that some patients who contracted the H7N9 bird flu in 2013 were able to recover more quickly than others. After taking samples, the researchers noted that the patients who managed to recover seemed to have a prior immunity thanks to T-cells, while those who lacked these cells suffered severely or died.

The outbreak led to 99% of those infected being admitted to hospital and was fatal in more than three in every 10 patients. The emergency also offered 'unique clinical samples' that yielded the secrets of a successful immune response.