Hugh Pickens writes writes "Vaccines for most diseases typically work for years or decades but with the flu, next fall it will be time to get another dose. Now Carl Zimmer writes that a flurry of recent studies on the virus has brought some hope for a change as flu experts foresee a time when seasonal flu shots are a thing of the past, replaced by long-lasting vaccines. 'That's the goal: two shots when you're young, and then boosters later in life' says Dr. Gary Nabel, predicting that scientists would reach that goal before long: 'in our lifetime, for sure, unless you're 90 years old.' Today's flu vaccines protect people from the virus by letting them make antibodies in advance but a traditional flu vaccine can protect against only flu viruses with a matching hemagglutinin protein. If a virus evolves a different shape, the antibodies cannot latch on, and it escapes destruction. Scientists have long wondered whether they could escape this evolutionary cycle with a universal flu vaccine that would to attack a part of the virus that changes little from year to year so now researchers are focusing on target antigens which are highly conserved between different influenza A virus subtypes. 'Universal vaccination with universal vaccines would put an end to the threat of global disaster that pandemic influenza can cause,' says Dr. Sara Gilbert."
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