An experimental influenza vaccine developed using messenger RNA technology appears capable of inducing what should be a protective immune response against all known subtypes of flu, at least in animals.

If the work is translated into humans it could turn out to be a version of a long-sought universal vaccine.

This would not be a vaccine that would block all flu infections, nor would it replace the need for an annual flu shot. Instead, it would prime the immune system to better respond to new flu viruses, lowering the risk of hospitalization, death, and social disruption. Flu pandemics, in effect, would be defanged.

Michael Worobey, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, has long been interested in how the immune system responds to influenza. He hailed the work as a potential game changer.

“I think this is some of the most exciting work in vaccinology in a long, long time,” Worobey, who was not involved in the research, told STAT. Get the full story here.