The flu is reigning over the Northern Hemisphere. Unfortunately, vaccines targeted at seasonal flu do not always provide expected protection, the reason being the non-predictable nature of its strains. Still, an orally administered medicine will probably become commercially available soon, as it is capable of protecting mice from many types of the influenza virus even at the current phase of the experiment.
If the experimental medicine proves effective in the case of humans, this may lead to the development of a plain pill that could fight one of the deadliest infections humanity faces. Flu threatens between 3 and 5 million people worldwide on a yearly basis and kills even 650,000 people a year (data provided by the World Health Organization). Modern medicine uses the vaccine as its basic means of defence against flu, the vaccine itself taking on the form of an injection of a cocktail composed of dead flu viruses whose purpose is to stimulate one's immune system to produce antibodies. Still, it happens from time to time that unpredicted strains reduce the effectiveness of such vaccines.
It is usually so that antibodies attack a specific flu strain, yet in 2008 scientists discovered a class of so-called "broadly neutralising antibodies" (bnAbs) in humans. These are capable of binding to multiple flu strains at the same time and deactivate them. Detailed research concerning one of the most promising antibodies (CR6261) proved that it binds to the stem part of hemagglutinin protein that is present on the surface of the virus. What is interesting, this particular part of the protein is basically identical in the case of many flu strains, being indispensable for letting the virus fuse with the membranes of cells subject to its infection. Due to this, annual vaccinations may soon turn out to be unnecessary.