An experimental treatment made from human proteins neutralized a wide variety of influenza germs in a study, including the H5N1 avian flu, the 1918 pandemic virus and some seasonal forms of the illness.
Mice that were injected with the treatment three days after being infected with bird flu didn’t show any symptoms, according to an Online report in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology. The treatment also protected mice from other strains of flu virus, researchers said.
Normally, flu vaccines are specific to only one strain of virus at a time. The new results suggest a single treatment may be developed that works for many strains. Such a treatment could be used to help slow outbreaks while more precise treatments are developed, researchers said. Human trials for proteins could begin as soon as the 2011-2012 winter flu season, they said.
“These antibodies have important therapeutic potential and pave the way for the generation of a universal vaccine,” said Ruben Donis, a study author and researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a conference call.
The treatment is made from a laboratory-produced version of human immune system defenses called monoclonal antibodies. It targets a different part of the flu virus than the body’s naturally produced antibodies.
The body produces antibodies to the rounded head of the flu virus, which can mutate quickly, said Wayne Marasco, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston and one of the study’s authors. The neck of the virus remains relatively stable, so that’s what he and his team targeted, he said.