Southampton scientists have made a pioneering breakthrough that could lead to a universal vaccine for all strains of flu.

The groundbreaking discovery could arm medics with a new weapon against season, bird and swine flu that gives people immunity against the virus, preventing future serious outbreaks that could pose a threat to many more lives.

Researchers at the University of Southampton have discovered a series of peptides – molecules of joined amino acids – found in the internal structure of every strain of the virus that could lead to the development of a vaccine to tackle all forms of it.

Currently vaccines protect against known strains of influenza, but because the virus has the ability to rapidly change itself and develop new strains, it continues to spread.

This new discovery means that if scientists can boost the response of cells within our immune system that already tackle these peptides, the vaccine would act much more quickly than current ones.

In collaboration with the University of Oxford and Retroscreen Virology Ltd, the team infected healthy volunteers with the influenza virus and closely monitored their immune responses in an isolation unit.

This revealed that our immune system produced various types of T-cells that tackled the peptides.