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Progress slowing for universal flu vaccine, s -

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ELEANOR HALL: Flu pandemics killed tens of millions of people around the world throughout the last
century and experts say we're long overdue for the next one.

But while prevention is the number one public health measure, scientists are reporting slow
progress in the search for a flu vaccine.

Dr Ian Barr from the World Health Organisation's Collaborative Centre for Influenza has examined
the latest results of clinical trials at a world vaccine congress in Sydney.

He's been speaking with Karen Barlow.

IAN BARR: I think we're still in the early stages, clinical trials are underway but they're still
in the phase one, so that's the early stage of development.

KAREN BARLOW: What are the barriers?

IAN BARR: It's a difficult task to do, I think that to try and get a truly universal vaccine which
would cover all the influenza A strains and influenza B is a big task, so it's not something which
is going to be easily achieved.

KAREN BARLOW: But is anything in the clinical trials showing much promise?

IAN BARR: I think it's too early to say at this stage, I think that, on the positive side, the
initial trials have shown that the approach, some of the approaches have been safe, but we really
need more time to test whether they're going to be efficacious.

KAREN BARLOW: This is all getting ahead of the next possible pandemic isn't it?

IAN BARR: Well we'd like to get ahead of the next pandemic, and certainly universal vaccines is one
approach to that, the other approach is taking a more selective approach to identifying those
targets and raising specific vaccines to those targets.

KAREN BARLOW: There are three Influenza strains currently circulating but is the real problem the
seasonal Influenza that might be hitting the local populations?

IAN BARR: We'd like something to cover seasonal Influenza and if there was a potential pandemic or
a pandemic did occur that a vaccine would cover both.

We'd take one or the other at this stage.

KAREN BARLOW: Is this one of the holy grails of medicine, to get this particular vaccine, this
universal vaccine?

IAN BARR: Well I think it is and virologists and medical people have been working on this for over
75 years now, and I think that highlights the difficulty of the task, to try and get something
which will be effective against all influenza strains.

It's a difficult beast, it's always changing its shape out there so it's a difficult one to come up
with a comprehensive solution to.

KAREN BARLOW: You can't really put a time frame on this can you?

IAN BARR: Well as soon as possible, would be something I'd like, but you have to be realistic about
these things. Clinical trials need to be done and clinical trials take years to derive a sufficient
data set to establish whether these vaccines are effective or not.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Dr Ian Barr from the WHO Collaborative Centre for Influenza speaking to Karen
Barlow.