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Is a Universal Vaccine Possible?

December 8, 2012, 1:15 PM

What's the Latest Development?

Science writer Carl Zimmer is optimistic about current research into a drug that could kill any kind of virus, regardless of which disease it transports. Zimmer admits that such research is in a very preliminary stage but insists that finding characteristics shared by all viruses could aid the in the development of a universal vaccine. While the versatility of viruses currently requires a unique treatment for each disease, their variability has also allowed engineers to use viruses in beneficial ways, such assembling solar panels or manufacturing proteins that can be used as drugs. 

What's the Big Idea?

"Viruses are by far the most abundant lifeform on Earth. If you took all the stars in the universe and multiplied that number by a million, that’s how many viruses we think are on the planet." Zimmer reminds us of the lesson of history, that we will again face an unknown virus that causes a lot of damage. But by developing a drug that recognizes the universal elements in viruses, Zimmer argues that vaccines could be developed quickly and on large scales to combat viruses within days, such as SARS, that cross over to affect our species. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com



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