By Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It’s been a particularly tough flu season, with the vaccine poorly matched to the predominant strain of the virus. While doctors say you should still get the shot, what if there were a way to fight the mutations that cause so much sickness each year? That’s what Temple University scientists are working on making a reality.

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For all the damage it can do, the flu has to ask for directions.

“It needs a way of sensing that it made it into the cell and it’s now time to infect it,” says Giacomo Fiorin.

So Fiorin and fellow researchers at Temple messed with its GPS — stopping a protein on the virus that tells it when to activate flu.

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“The protein becomes useless, and the virus can’t tell anymore what it is,” Fiorin says. “It never gets to realize it is time for infection.”

This science is hitting the refresh button on the obsolete flu-fighting drug amantadine. It’s an antiviral, not a vaccine replacement, so you’d still get the jab and then take this in the early stage of an infection.

Fiorin says it’s important to start development on drugs like this for patients with weakened immune systems. You’d still get a flu shot, but this drug would work like Tamiflu to kill the virus if you became infected. Fiorin says two weapons are better than one:

“If we always keep using the same drug, eventually the virus will evolve to be resistant to it, which is what happened already with amanatidine and is happening for Tamiflu.”

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Animal and clinical trials are the next steps.