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Hopes for 'universal' flu vaccine

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Patients who had swine flu last year developed protective antibodies that could be used to make a jab to guard against most kinds of influenza, US scientists have said.

The immune system antibodies, which are rarely seen after seasonal flu jabs, were identified in patients who were infected with the pandemic 2009 strain after researchers analysed nine patients aged between 21 and 45 who came down with swine flu last winter.

Scientists identified a number of cross-protective antibodies that can protect against a wide variety of strains of the flu, raising hopes that they could be used in a “universal” vaccine.

Study leader Dr Jens Wrammert, from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, said: “Our data shows that infection with the 2009 pandemic influenza strain could induce broadly protective antibodies that are only rarely seen after seasonal flu infections or flu shots.

“These findings show that these types of antibodies can be induced in humans, if the immune system has the right stimulation, and suggest that a pan-influenza vaccine might be feasible.”

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