A ‘universal flu vaccine' developed by Oxford researchers is set to be tested on 2,000 patients in a two-year trial, the world’s first widespread testing of such a vaccine.

If successful, the vaccine could be the first to fight all types of flu virus, removing the need for vaccines to be changed each year based on a best guess of what the most prevalent strain will be. The researchers say that the protection provided should last longer than a year, but more trials will be needed to determine its exact effectiveness.

Unlike ordinary vaccines, which use proteins found on the surface of the virus that are susceptible to change, the universal vaccine uses the more stable proteins at the virus’ core. Instead of utilising antibodies, it works by stimulating the immune system to boost virus-killing T-cells, which research has shown such can help fight more than one type of flu virus.

It has been developed by Oxford University’s Jenner Institute and Vaccitech, a spin-out biotech company founded by Jenner scientists.

The researchers are seeking around 500 NHS patients to test the vaccine this flu season for the Phase IIb clinical trial. The rest will be recruited during the 2018/19 season.