Science 3 min read

Scientists Find Possible Flu Cure Using "Killer" Immune Cells

If successful, this treatment could eradicate all strains of the deadly flu virus ¦ qimono / Pixabay

If successful, this treatment could eradicate all strains of the deadly flu virus ¦ qimono / Pixabay

Researchers from the University of Melbourne just revealed that some immune cells in our body can potentially fight all three strains of influenza. These ‘killer cells‘ could reportedly pave the way for the development of a universal vaccine against the deadly virus.

Influenza is highly contagious and one of the leading caused of death in the world. In the United States alone, there have been 9 to 49 million recorded cases of flu illness in the past decade. On average, 5 to 20 percent of the country’s population catches flu every year.

Last year, the CDC reported that 2017 to 2018 was one of the longest flu seasons in the US with 80,000 confirmed deaths from the viral illness.

To date, scientists put different strains of influenza into the annual vaccines at varying rates to stay ahead of the virus’ mutated version. If there’s any chance that our body could fight the infection naturally on its own, annual flu shots will no longer be necessary.

Killer Immune Cells

CD8+T cells, or killer immune cells, are white blood cells that can maintain a memory of previous exposure to any strain of the influenza virus.

The microscopic killers were first spotted in 2013 during the initial analysis of people exposed to the H7N9 virus, commonly known as bird flu.

“Our team has been fascinated by the killer cells for a long time,” Katherine Kedzierska, lead researcher of the study published in the journal Nature Immunology, said in a statement.

“So our next step was to discover how their protective mechanism worked, and if it had potential for a flu vaccine.”

Using mass spectrometry, Kedzierska and her team sifted through 67,000 viral sequences to look for particular peptides found in all three flu strains in humans.

Certain combinations called epitopes reportedly act as warnings to the killer cells, informing them that a virus has arrived and should be eliminated.

“We identified the parts of the virus that are shared across all flu strains, and sub-strains capable of infecting humans,” Marios Koutsakos, a member of the University of Melbourne research team, said.

The peptides were tried on mice to immunize the rodents against the virus. Surprisingly, it worked and both the infection and inflammation levels were reduced.

The team admits that there’s still a long way to go before a universal flu vaccine can be truly developed. However, they are confident that their work is a crucial step in that direction.

Read More: World’s First Universal Flu Vaccine Enters Clinical Trials

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Rechelle Ann Fuertes

Rechelle is the current Managing Editor of Edgy. She's an experienced SEO content writer, researcher, social media manager, and visual artist. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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