Universal flu vaccine focus for Adelaide scientist

A University of Adelaide researcher is leading a collaboration between Australia and Indonesia on the production of a universal flu vaccine.

"The frequent arising of new influenza strains represents the greatest challenge to health authorities as it renders currently available vaccines ineffective," says Dr Mohammed Alsharifi, the Head of the Vaccine Research Group at the School of Molecular and Biomedical Science, University of Adelaide.

"While annual vaccine reformulation appears to be effective against closely matched strains of influenza, the current method is not effective against drifted strains as well as new pandemic strains, as illustrated by the recent H1N1 pandemic. This raises the need for a new technology," he says.

Dr Alsharifi says the recent experience of swine flu and the continuing fears of the medical, scientific and world health communities of the sudden emergence of a deadly bird flu strain, means that a new approach to flu vaccines needs to be contemplated.

"What we need is some protection against all influenza virus A strains, including any emergent pandemic virus," he says.

A new technology, invented by Dr Alsharifi of the University of Adelaide and Professor Arno Müllbacher og the Australian National University, has helped to generate a new influenza vaccine  - GammaFlu - that provides cross-protection against current influenza viruses as well as any other unknown strains that may arise in the future.