Scientists in the USA say they are getting closer to developing a vaccine that will provide life-long protection against any type of influenza. This could be welcome news for millions of people around the world who go to the doctor every year to get a flu jab. Two different research teams have been testing new drugs on animals and both have had promising results. Trials will soon begin on humans to determine if the test vaccine has similar successes. Flu expert professor John Oxford told the BBC that: "This is a leap forward compared to anything done recently. They have good animal data, not just in mice but in ferrets and monkeys too." He added that: "It's a very good stepping stone."
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The flu virus kills up to half a million people every year. The problem with finding a vaccine is the ever-changing nature of the flu virus. It is in a constant state of mutation. Doctors have to predict which strains of the virus are likely to cause the most infections and then create an updated version of the vaccine accordingly. For this reason, the success rate of most flu vaccines is very low because much of the process involves a lot of guesswork. Scientists say that vaccines in the U.S. reduced the risk of catching flu by just 23 per cent last year. The website Inverse.com said the research could, "point to how we can go about making vaccines for other viruses that mutate rapidly, like HIV or the common cold".