Thousands of lives could be saved with ground-breaking New Zealand research that has paved the way for a long-term flu vaccine.
The world-first research, undertaken by he Institute of Environmental Science and Research, has shown a unexpected immune response to the life-threatening virus.
The Southern Hemisphere Influenza and Vaccine Effectiveness Research and Surveillance (Shivers) study looked at 1500 children and adults randomly selected from Auckland GP practices.
"The study surprised us by showing a strong and robust immune response against the second most abundant protein in influenza, neuraminidase, particularly among children under five," Sue Huang who led the study said.
Huang explained that flu viruses had two main proteins; haemagglutinin and neuraminidase.
Huang said in the past the accepted practice had been to focus on immune responses against the haemagglutinin protein as it was the most common found in the influenza virus surface.
"Our results have generated an important understanding of people's immune response against this protein, neuraminidase."
She said the implications were instrumental in improving understanding how the body responds to and protects itself against flu.
"It will also optimise pandemic and seasonal vaccine design, particularly for the development of broad and durable universal vaccines."
The hunt for a universal vaccine, which could eliminate the need to update and administer the seasonal flu vaccine each year, was the subject of intense research around the world.
The US Congress alone has fuelled $1.476 billion funding into chasing the vaccine to get long-lasting protection against multiple subtypes of flu, rather than a select few.
Shivers is the work of Auckland District Health Board (ADHB), Counties Manukau District Health Board (CMDHB), the University of Auckland, University of Otago, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the WHO Influenza Collaborating Centre at St Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis, USA as well as Primary Health Organisations, general practices and Auckland Regional Public Health Services.