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Arthritis drug might prove effective in fighting the flu, study suggests
Date:5/26/2009

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have found that an approved drug for treating rheumatoid arthritis reduces severe illness and death in mice exposed to the Influenza A virus. Their findings suggest that tempering the response of the body's immune system to influenza infection may alleviate some of the more severe symptoms and even reduce mortality from this virus.

The scientists report in the June 1 edition of The Journal of Immunology, which is now available online, that mice infected with the Influenza A virus responded favorably to a drug called Abatacept, which is commonly used to treat people with rheumatoid arthritis. The mice had been given "memory" T-cells, or white blood cells that have been primed to fight the invading virus as the result of previous exposure to Influenza A.

"We found that treating the mice with Abatacept minimized tissue damage caused by the immune response, but still enabled the body to rid itself of the virus. The mice didn't become as sick, recovered much faster and had much less damage to the lungs, compared to mice that weren't given the drug," says Donna L. Farber, Ph.D., a professor of surgery and microbiology and immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the study's senior author.

"Moreover, treatment with Abatacept significantly improved survival for mice infected with a lethal dose of influenza virus," Dr. Farber says. "The survival rate for the treated mice was 80 percent, compared to 50 percent for the mice that weren't treated."

She explains that the drug does not interrupt the immune system's early, rapid attack in the lungs, which helps to kill the virus, but it prevents "memory" T-cells from overreacting, which produces multiple negative effects. "It's this overactive immune response that can make you feel sick and can also lead to pneumonia," she says.

The study's lead author, John R. Teijaro, a researcher in Dr.
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Contact: Karen Warmkessel
kwarmkessel@umm.edu
410-328-8919
University of Maryland Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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