SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Preventing the next worldwide pandemic from happening before it even starts -- researchers at Stanford University think it's possible.
Doctors say the COVID-19 virus will always be with us, but some experts wonder if the pandemic could have been avoided all together?
What if there was a way in which our bodies fought off a new infection using different immunities?
Stanford University Professor Bali Pulendran and his colleagues think they may have found an answer.
"Imagine if you had this universal vaccine that could've been delivered to humans that induces broad protections," Dr. Pulendran said. "We don't know exactly what this virus is, we don't know what it takes to make a conventional vaccine, but nevertheless, we ramped up our innate immune system that's giving you a broad degree of protection."
Traditional science utilizes antibodies - our T-cells that remember specifics of viruses introduced by vaccines to fight off infection.
But Dr. Pulendran says the innate immune system, found in all creatures, can be used to fight off more kinds of sicknesses - even viruses we've never been exposed to.
"A single shot protects against influenza, against the COVID omicron strains, against the COVID beta strains, against other coronaviruses," Dr. Pulendran said. "So just one shot seems to imprint broad immunity that seems to protect against many, many different strains of viruses."
"I mean, that would be an absolute game changer in our society that's struggling against these three major viruses right?" ABC7 News reporter Dustin Dorsey asked.
"Absolutely, or any other virus actually," Dr. Pulendran said. "We should aspire towards creating vaccines that are already available and could be deployed immediately upon the first signs of the pandemic."
The innate immune system vaccine won't replace traditional antibody vaccines. It's broad, but can only prevent infection for a few months at best.
But, a universal vaccine could create a stop-gap until specific treatments can be developed.
The research has shown great success in laboratory mice and Dr. Pulendran hopes to move to human trials in the next two years.
This is all in the hopes we can prevent the next global pandemic.
"In a way, it was too late for the COVID pandemic, but I do believe it's timely in a sense," Dr. Pulendran said. "It stimulated a whole new field that - God forbid - we have another pandemic that this should then be in primetime for that."
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