LA JOLLA, Calif. - At one of the many laboratories at the Scripps Research Institute, one drop at a time, a researcher is carefully working to crystalize components of what could become the first universal flu vaccine.
"What we're trying to do now is further cauterize other antibodies that might do similar things," said Dr. Ian Wilson, professor of molecular biology.
Wilson is overseeing development of a universal flu vaccine.
"It would be so much nicer if you could just have one shot that would protect you against flu for life," Wilson said.
Wilson said there are basically two types of flu. The first is influenza A.
"That's the one that's actually more deadly -- the ones that cause pandemics and epidemics," Wilson explained.
An example is H1N1 , also known as swine flu.
The second type is influenza B. This is the seasonal sniffles or common stomach flu.
"Our immune system makes antibodies, and that's what protects us against influenza viruses," Wilson explained.
You can get the seasonal flu shot to ward off these bugs, but it covers only the "strain" of the season and lasts only one year. Wilson's team is trying to develop a vaccine that would be much more effective.
"This is the first time such an antibody has been found that can actually protect against influenza A and influenza B," said Wilson. "We're in the design phase at the moment, and so we can start to use this information to start to make an immogen, as we call it."
The researchers hope to create an immogen to cover all flu strains -- one that might last a lifetime.
"Even something that could give you protection for five years would be better than something you'd have to get every year," said Wilson. "The ultimate goal is to have lifetime protection."
The research looks promising, but it will still be several years before it's available to the general public, Wilson said.
"There's still more research, then testing and then the manufacturing phase," said Wilson. "It will probably take another one or two years -- maybe even longer."