A universal flu vaccine could become a reality within the next seven years.

New research has found a new class of antibodies that are capable of neutralising a wide variety of influenza viruses.

The universal vaccine would need to be taken just once, rather than annually as it currently stands, based on predictions by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

This year’s flu strain – H3N2 – predicted by WHO, mutated sufficiently enough not to be recognised by the vaccine currently available.  It is claimed the rate of effectiveness for this year’s vaccine is less than 25% by the Centre for Disease Control in the US.

Research showed when an isolated strain-specific antibody was compared to an isolated broadly neutralising flu antibody (universal vaccines), the strain-specific antibody was much more effective at negating the effect of the flu virus.

However, when isolated in human blood, both vaccines were found to be just as effective as the other, with the broadly neutralising antibody effective in more strains of flu.

The study also discovered the subtype of antibodies found in the lungs and upper respiratory tract are particularly effective at disabling the flu virus.

Senior author, Matthew Miller, said: “Unlike seasonal vaccines, which must be given annually, this type of vaccine would only be given once, and would have the ability to protect against all strains of flu, even when the virus mutates.

“This would prevent the occurrence of flu pandemics and poor vaccine efficiency in the case of mismatches, which actually occurred this year.”