International health insurance companies may soon be providing expatriates around the world with the same flu immunisation shot, following recent discoveries made by scientists at Princeton University.
The research, which was recently described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found a universal influenza vaccine could make it more difficult for the virus to spread and would make a bout of the disease less severe.
Furthermore, by affecting parts of the virus that remain relatively unchanged during mutations, it would make it difficult for the illness to evade immunity through evolution.
This could result in the "effective, wide spread prevention of flu", the researchers declared.
It would result in "unprecedented control" of the ailment during epidemics of contagious and dangerous new strains, as well as enable protection from seasonal variants.
Even contemporary vaccines could have their effectiveness improved through cross-protective immunisations, the scientists stated.
Inoculation has already proven itself to be a particularly useful way to control dangerous and contagious diseases, with a widespread programme in India resulting in the country recently being declared Polio free by the World Health Organisation.
The Princeton investigators created a model of flu outbreak in a populace that had received universal vaccination, considering both a pandemic and epidemic event.
They revealed people were protected against all modes of influenza, while creating a form of "herd immunity", where individuals who had not received the inoculation did not fall ill because others around them had been protected.
Furthermore, the scientists discovered mass immunisation could slow the evolution of the virus and control flu.
While people would still be stricken with mutated forms of the illness, their symptoms would be less severe, with sufferers no longer sneezing and coughing and therefore transmitting influenza to other individuals less frequently.
"We found that by putting the brakes on flu transmission, you could also put the brakes on flu evolution," said lead author Nimalan Arinaminpathy, a postdoctoral research associate in Princeton's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
"Universal vaccines won't get rid of the flu completely, but they should take our control efforts to the next level," he added.
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