Doctors in Great Britain have successfully tested a flu vaccine that—by targeting proteins common to all flu viruses—works against all strains of influenza. So, we might not all get wiped out by some mutant bird flu after all!
Most seasonal flu vaccines—which take months to develop and refine, and only protect against certain strains of flu—work by promoting the creation of antibodies based on the external proteins of a given flu strain. The universal vaccine, developed by a team at Oxford University, tells the body to produce a different kind of immune response—T-cells—based on the proteins inside the virus that nearly all strains of the flu share.
Of course, we're still years (and more studies) away from approval and widespread use. But assuming a highly contagious, deathly variety of flu doesn't pop up somewhere and wipe out half the human population, we might be on to something good!