Antibody Discovery Could Lead To Long-Lasting Flu Vaccine

February 23, 2009

(ChattahBox) — Researchers have discovered human antibodies – immune system proteins that attach to invaders such as viruses – that seem to neutralize several strains of influenza, including H5N1 bird flu.

The researchers reported in Sunday’s issue of the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology that tests in mice the viruses neutralized several types of influenza A viruses, including the H5N1 avian influenza virus.

The antibodies, called monoclonal antibodies because they attack one specific target only, protected mice from what should have been a lethal target of H5N1 avian flu virus — even up to three days later after infection.

The discovery would not have been possible without the blood of 57 volunteers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute , donated a decade ago and used to build a library of 27 billion disease-fighting cells called antibodies. Scientists screened those antibodies and found 10 capable of stopping the bird flu and as it turns out many more strains.

Influenza is especially difficult to fight because it cloaks itself in lollipop-shaped proteins called hemagglutinin and neuraminidase, which mutate regularly and give influenza A strains the “H” and “N” designations in their names.

Because of the mutations, vaccines have to be reformulated every year and the viruses can develop resistance to the neuraminidase inhibitors, as they have to older antivirals.

The new antibodies attach to a less mutation-prone part of the virus, on the “stick” part of the lollipop, the researchers said. It appears to be similar across various strains.

The current work dealt with just influenza A, one of two predominant types of flu. But the scientists said they believe that a similar strategy could work with influenza B viruses, and that a successful vaccine would consist of a cocktail of immune-system triggers.

A vaccine is still years off, but if the research stands up to further testing, the flu vaccine might one day be more like the shots given to ward off measles, mumps, and polio.


One Response to “Antibody Discovery Could Lead To Long-Lasting Flu Vaccine”

  1. Antibody on May 14th, 2009 4:29 am

    Thanks for share.

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