Scientists are developing a flu medication that can effectively protect the body from most or all strains of the influenza virus. If successful, the drug will eliminate the need to get a different flu vaccine every year.
According to a study, the new treatment has already been tested and yielded positive results in lab mice. When taken orally, the experimental new drug offered 100 percent protection to lab mice that have previously been exposed to the flu. It also neutralized infection in lab-grown cultures of human cells.
The study was published in Science on Friday, March 8.
Experimental Flu Treatment
Every year, public health officials remind the public to get their vaccines in preparation for the flu season, which usually begins around October and extends until May.
The flu is unlike other diseases caused by a virus. Unlike the measles virus, which remained identical over the years, influenza is constantly changing. The vaccine administered last year might not be effective at protecting the public from the virus this year because it evolves so quickly to prevent the immune system from detecting it as a threat. This has prevented scientists from developing flu shots that only needs to be administered once and offer long-term protection.
However, this experimental new treatment addresses the problem. According to research, it has the capacity to bind and neutralize multiple strains of the influenza virus at once by targeting areas that remain constant or identical.
In 2008, researchers discovered a class of broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) that targets an area of the influenza virus, pries open the cell membranes, and infiltrates the cell. They found that the same mechanism is present in every strain of the influenza virus, allowing the same antibodies to fight off the disease.
A Long Way To Go
The researchers clarified that the new flu treatment is still in its early stages of development. It might take years of studies and testing before it becomes available to the market.
"We need more drugs in the fight against flu, and this approach could provide them," said Jesse Bloom, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. He is not involved in the study.
Florian Krammer, a virologist at the Icahn School of Medicine, added that the study could also help the development of treatment for other viral diseases, including Ebola.