CBS Local — As Americans deal with a devastating flu season that has already claimed hundreds of lives, researchers at Georgia State University claim they’ve developed a way to produce a “universal flu vaccine” that could protect patients for several years with just one shot.

Dr. Lei Deng and Dr. Baozhong Wang say that a new approach of using double-layered protein nanoparticles to target the influenza virus produced a longer lasting immunity to the flu in mice.

“We’re trying to develop a new vaccine approach that eliminates the need for vaccination every year,” Dr. Wang, an associate professor at Georgia State said in a press release. “You wouldn’t need to change the vaccine type every year because it’s universal and can protect against any influenza virus.”

The researchers say the yearly flu shot targets protein “heads” that attack the body and make people feel sick. The problem with those shots is that scientists make the annual injection so hyper-focused on killing one particular strain of the flu that the vaccines become fairly useless once these protein heads mutate.

“This vaccine is composed of very conserved domains. That’s the reason why the induced immunity can offer universal protection,” Dr. Deng explains.

Georgia State is now looking to move their tests of the nanoparticle vaccine on to ferrets, who have a similar respiratory system to humans. The CDC says the current flu vaccine in the U.S. has a success rate of around 40 percent. A similar injection in Australia reportedly prevented the flu in just 10 percent of patients during their flu season.

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