Drudge Report
Thu Aug 04 2005 19:34:29 ET

BRITISH scientists are developing a revolutionary vaccine that works against all types of flu, the UK DAILY MAIL fronts on Friday.

It would protect people against flu and a single jab could give lifelong immunity.

Currently, new vaccines have to be developed each year. The major breakthrough has been made by the Cambridge biotech firm Acambis.

When it announced the news yesterday the value of its shares jumped by 9p. Such a vaccine would be massively lucrative for its manufacturer.

Each year, flu kills up to 12,000 people in the UK, many of them elderly. But experts have been warning of a possible global pandemic of bird flu, which would infect a third of the world's population in just a year and kill hundreds of millions.

The current problem with fighting flu is that the virus is constantly mutating and producing new strains.

A new vaccine has to be produced each year to protect against the particular strains circulating at that time.

The scientists at Acambis, working with Belgian researchers, have created the first-ever 'broad spectrum' vaccine, which is effective against many of the most common types of flu.

They are now refining the formula to make a more advanced jab that could protect against all types.

This universal vaccine could soon enter human trials. Acambis says it would be quicker and easier to produce than current vaccines, which are created in fertilized chicken eggs.

Dr Thomas Monath, chief scientific officer at Acambis, said: 'The need to develop a new vaccine each time a different influenza strain emerges often results in long delays before a population can be protected.

'We aim to avoid the need for annual re- engineering and manufacture of new products, something that is not yet possible with existing vaccines.

'The technology also has special importance as a potential means of protecting human populations against pandemic influenza strains.'

The breakthrough is seen as so important to the future of the company, which specialises in vaccines, that it was announced to the stock market first.

The broad-spectrum vaccine is being tested on animals and the first human trials could start in a year.

The universal vaccine is still in an earlier stage of research.