According to researchers, llamas may contain the key to a long-lasting flu vaccine.
Laboratory tests showed that a protein produced by the fluffy animals as well as camels diverges the virus in mice.
Rodents were protected even over nine months from 60 flu strains that cause fever, headache and fatigue in humans.
Currently flu shots protect against a maximum of four attacks. This means that people can still be beaten down by attacks predicted to be inactive.
The Belgian study even raised the hope of a nasal spray of the flu after the mice were equally protected by injection or inhalation of the vaccine.
Llamas may contain the key to a long-lasting flu vaccine, research suggests (stock)
The researchers collected antibodies – proteins that the body's immune system uses to neutralize pathogens – from llamas.
The team of pharmaceutical giant Janssen, Beerse, injected the animals with a vaccine containing three different influenza viruses.
Among the viruses was the H1N1 pathogen, which caused the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, and killed up to five percent of the world's population.
The scientists then collected four antibodies that circulated in the blood of the llamas and combined them into a "superprotein."
When this protein was administered to mice – either via a nasal spray or an injection – they were more likely to survive influenza A and B than untreated rodents.
Influenza A, which includes bird flu, affects both animals and humans. This virus is constantly changing and is responsible for widespread epidemics.
Influenza B is now found only in humans and tends to be less severe than A. However, it was blamed for severe outbreaks in the UK and the US last winter.
"It was quite difficult to find an antibody that neutralized both A and B," said biologist Professor Ian Wilson of the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego.
Professor Wilson, who has published more than 50 flu antibody studies, helped to find out how the superprotein binds to influenza viruses.
WHERE DO YOU GET A FLU JAB?
Influenza can be a serious illness. If you become very ill, it can lead to complications such as pneumonia, kidney failure, and inflammation of the heart, brain, or muscle.
People at risk of serious illness or death if they get flu will receive the vaccine in the NHS. Ideally, you should have this before the end of December, when the flu rises (it takes about two weeks for the antibodies to fully develop).
The risk groups include everyone over the age of 65, people living in longer-term care homes, carers and pregnant women.
The vaccine is also offered to people between the ages of six months to 65 years with certain conditions such as diabetes.
It is available in the practice of your family doctor.
All children between the ages of two and eight (as of August 31, 2017) will also receive the vaccine as a nasal spray. The United Kingdom introduced the 2013 child vaccination program. Last year, the vaccine had an efficacy of 66 percent. Australia has no similar program.
If you do not qualify Jab for the NHS, you can pay to get it at a pharmacy.
Well Pharmacy calculates £ 9 to £ 14 (depending on the number of strains in the vaccine), Superdrug of £ 9.99, Lloyds Pharmacy £ 10, Boots £ 12.99 and Tesco £ 9.
Older children who do not fall under the NHS system will receive the nasal spray vaccine from some pharmacies like Well (£ 23 for those between the ages of two and 18, this may be a second dose at least four weeks later for an additional £ 23) and the injection require for the 12 and more for £ 9.
Boots offers Jab from 10 years for the price of £ 12.99. Tesco offers it to the 12-year-old for £ 9.
The study, published in the journal Science, also showed that Jab protected Rhesus macques monkeys for four months.
The challenge with the development of flu vaccines is that the virus is constantly evolving to avoid detection.
Therefore, scientists must predict which receptors they should target before a winter outbreak.
However, the protein developed from llamas consists of many different antibodies attached to markers found in numerous influenza strains.
It is also smaller than the average antibody because it does not contain as many protein chains.
This means that it can penetrate deeper into a flu virus and reach gaps that can not touch larger antibodies.
Research indicates that these cleavages do not develop as rapidly as receptors on the surface of influenza viruses and may therefore be easier to target.
It is believed that many people refuse flu shots because of fear of needles, with a nasal spray possibly being more appealing.
This may help convince 29 percent of over-65s that they are not vaccinated on average, even though they qualify for free jab in the NHS.
"This is a great story showing the strength of antibody development," Professor of Influenza Vaccine, Professor Antonio Lanzavecchia, told Science.
Professor Lanzavecchia works at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Bellinzona, Switzerland, and was not involved in the study.
The researchers, led by Joost Kolkman, emphasize that it can take many years for a nasal vaccine to be available to adults.
Dr. James Crowe, a flu antibody specialist from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, also warned against a human immune system that a lamaprotein might be considered an impurity.
It could therefore trigger an immune response, he added. Dr. Crowe was not involved in the research.
In the UK, a nasal spray is already available for children aged two to eight years.
Older and pregnant women are at greatest risk because the virus can cause pneumonia, sepsis, meningitis and brain inflammation.
Influenza is also a very common infection in babies and children who need to be hospitalized, and some even die from the infection.
Earlier this week, a report found that millions of high-risk patients in the United Kingdom have not received any influenza vaccine this winter due to problems with delivery to general practitioners.
Only 33.8 percent of over-65s have been vaccinated, compared to 53.7 percent last year, according to a report on the national flu of Public Heath England.