Research highlight

Influenza: A novel mode of therapeutic intervention

Nature Communications

February 11, 2015

An antibody-based therapeutic agent against flu infection could be effective in strains that are resistant to existing antiviral drugs, reports a study published online in Nature Communications. Through a detailed analysis, the study identifies a novel structure on the surface of the influenza virus that, when bound by an antibody fragment, can prevent lethal H1N1 infections in a mouse model. H1N1 is the flu strain that dominated the 2013-2014 influenza season the United Sates.

While vaccination remains the first line of defense again contracting the flu, each year the level of protection varies based on the accuracy of predicting which strain will dominate the upcoming flu season. While neuramidase inhibitors (antivirals such as Tamiflu, Relenza) have proven effective in the past, drug resistance can occur and the development of therapeutic agents against flu infections remains an ongoing challenge.

Maryna Eichelberger, James Stevens and colleagues produced a novel antibody (CD6) and demonstrate that it binds the influenza virus through a highly conserved area of the virus particle surface. CD6 was effective in preventing H1N1 infections in the laboratory, and the molecular mode of recognition of this antibody suggests that it would be very difficult for the virus to develop resistance, which would require several simultaneous mutations.

The study could significantly impact influenza drug research by providing an important new concept that should facilitate the development of effective and resilient antibody-based flu therapies, which could be crucial in fighting future pandemics.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms7114

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