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Oxford University Tests Universal Flu Vaccine 218

dbune writes "A universal flu vaccine has been tested by scientists at Oxford University. '... the vaccine targets proteins inside the flu virus that are common across all strains, instead of those that sit on the virus's external coat, which are liable to mutate. If used widely a universal flu vaccine could prevent pandemics, such as the swine flu outbreaks of recent years, and end the need for a seasonal flu jab.'"
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Oxford University Tests Universal Flu Vaccine

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  • Re:Hmm.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Damarkus13 ( 1000963 ) on Monday February 07, 2011 @11:54PM (#35133988)
    Way to cherry pick a quote. Here's the rest of it.

    "We did get an indication that the vaccine was protecting people, not only from the numbers of people who got flu but also from looking at their T-cells before we gave them flu. The people we vaccinated had T-cells that were more activated. The people we hadn't vaccinated had T-cells as well but they were in a resting state so they would probably have taken longer to do anything. The volunteers we vaccinated had T-cells that were activated, primed and ready to kill. There were more T-cells in people we vaccinated and they were more activated."

    This test appears to be about safety and confirming some sort of t-cell response, not effectiveness.

  • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @12:13AM (#35134098)

    Well, I am by no means an expert on this stuff, but I think the idea is to make what's called a protein subunit vaccine. They take a key protein from the disease and implant it in some other virus. Your body attacks that virus and develops an immune response to the targeted protein. It's being used in experimental vaccines for AIDS and, apparently, Influenza. However, I don't know if there are any cases of it being done successfully on a large scale.

    If it works out, it would be fantastic - effective vaccination for two of the worlds biggest killers, which could potentially save millions of lives per year. However, first they need to get it working, and then they need to find a way to make it cheap enough to use in the third world, since that's where most of the deaths occur. It might help that a universal flu vaccine would be very popular in the first world, and could provide them with the money to ramp production.

  • by izomiac ( 815208 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @01:47AM (#35134558) Homepage
    Actually, when dealing with vaccines, quality of life is quantified and fairly objective. The term is "Quality-Adjusted Life Year []. Life-years are measured, so a young child dying has more bearing than an elderly person, and the quality of each year is measured from zero (dead) to one (perfectly healthy). Technically, the range is a bit beyond that, as certain impairments are weighted as negative numbers, i.e. worse than death.

    Being subjective doesn't get you anywhere. If there are only enough healthcare dollars to save Frank xor Joe, then you need objective criteria for determining which you save. Frank doesn't get to die just because he isn't "enjoying life" enough. Discounting life based on perceived quality is exactly what we do. Take the terminal cancer patient for example. We could let them die in as little pain as possible when the usual treatment options fail, or we could perform CPR until every rib is broken and defibrillate until their chest is burnt leather, from the reasoning that, even in their pain-filled non-communicative state, we can't make judgments of their quality of life.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson