UCF researchers experiment with lifetime flu shot vaccine

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Flu season isn’t even in its peak yet and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Researchers at the University of Central Florida are working on a flu vaccine that would require only one flu shot and it would last a lifetime.

Scientists have to figure out what strain of the flu they think is coming nearly a year in advance to help develop a vaccine.

"We appear to be fairly off this year, and we've been off previous years, too,” Dr. Kai McKinstry, with UCF biomedical science, told Channel 9’s Jamie Holmes.

That's because the flu is good at mutating and changing into different forms.

UCF researchers are working on a flu shot vaccine that would recognize the flu, no matter what shape it takes.

"Think of the flu as a cuckoo clock. They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. But the inside of the clock, well, that's all fairly the same,” McKinstry said.

The vaccine the team is working on using T cells, the blood cells in the body that fight invaders. The idea is to use them in an inhaler that goes into a person’s lungs, so the T cells in the vaccine goes to work immediately when it sees infection. A lung infection is the primary cause of death from the flu.

"That's the goal of our vaccine, is to target the infected cells very early during infection. That stops the spread and eliminates the disease,” McKinstry said.

The vaccine is still years -- maybe even a decade -- away.

Japanese researchers made headlines this week with news they had developed a flu pill that could kill the virus in hours.

"We're trying to uncover the basic principles that will allow us to make the kind of vaccine we're talking about -- that can protect everyone against every type of influenza,” McKinstry said.

The UCF research is being funded by a grant from the American Heart Association.