It’s been more than a century ago that the flu vaccine made its appearance in the world, unfortunately, years after humanity suffered one of the greatest epidemiological disasters in history, annihilating 50 million people and infecting another 500 million: Spanish flu. Now with a population of 7545 million people, seven times greater than at that time (1918).
Experts do not rule out the possibility of a new global epidemic and believe that hospitals and health systems would be overwhelmed by such a situation.
Both scientists and epidemiologists and physicists are working hard to prevent and above all predict which influenza strain will appear. They are not only working on annual vaccines to reduce the public risk of infection. Although it is our best form of defense against this disease, there is still much to work. Experts still fear that a pandemic may occur at any time.
Jonah Sacha, Ph.D., an immunologist, microbiologist, and researcher at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at Oregon Health and Science University, says it is very possible that something like this will happen in the future, hopefully not in the next decades, since that, based on the configuration of today’s world and the way it is connected, it would be a real catastrophe.
Sacha and a whole team of researchers are in search of a universal vaccine to combat the latent threat of pandemic flu. The Gates Foundation offers valuable support for this type of research.
What is sought is to create a vaccine that fights all types of influenza viruses, thus replacing annual vaccines. To go a little further, immunity is sought for life.
Researchers believe that this type of vaccine may be available to the population in about 5 years. Something quite promising.
The flu tends to appear spontaneously in people and weakening them, to this are added other symptoms such as fatigue, chills and fever, pain, among others.
Nobody is immune to the virus and it happens often even in football players, for example. It is not rarely that you see even the players running to become NFL MVP, being left out of a match because of a flu related illness.
Surely you ever also went through these states that make you stay at home or away from the people around you, whether your family, your work or school, if you are a student.
In general, this type of flu can be cured after a week or two, although sometimes it can cause much more serious complications such as bronchitis, asthma attacks, pneumonitis, ear infections, heart problems, and in some cases it can even cause death.
Sacha points out that many people die each year from this cause, and the worst part is that people tend to believe or have the perception that it is not as bad as it seems.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hospitalized ranges go from 150,000 to almost one million and 12,000 to 80,000 deaths each year.
A constant search
For their part, scientists map the trends of this disease and identify about four common strains that usually appear in the flu season.
In the process, scientists create viruses, kill them, and then pack them in a vaccine that is usually given by injection. Next, the vaccine urges the immune system to create antibodies to naturalize dead viruses. Finally, when the immune system is exposed to real viruses, the body already knows how to fight them.
Influenza vaccines are not always as effective as they change every year and do not always work, which causes doubts in patients. In a good year, vaccines can be up to 60 percent effective, while in others, it barely reaches 10 or 20 percent effectiveness. However, they are necessary.
Currently, different types of viruses are used although there are the most common ones such as cytomegalovirus (CMV), used as a basis to teach the body to defend against the flu. The T-cells are the ones that do the heavy work taking care of the immune system, which acts quickly against an infection.
What is expected
Scientists hope to create a stock of immune cells, which would be stored in the lungs.
There are other scientists from different universities such as Cambridge, Harvard, the National of Allergy and Infectious Disease, among others, who are receiving funds from The Gates Foundation to achieve something that many want: world health.
While one vaccine a year is not always effective, it is necessary and better than nothing.