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Scientists identify lab-made proteins that neutralize multiple strains of seasonal and pandemic flu
Date:2/22/2009

Scientists have identified a small family of lab-made proteins that neutralize a broad range of influenza A viruses, including the H5N1 avian virus, the 1918 pandemic influenza virus and seasonal H1N1 flu viruses. These human monoclonal antibodies, identical infection-fighting proteins derived from the same cell lineage, also were found to protect mice from illness caused by H5N1 and other influenza A viruses. Because large quantities of monoclonal antibodies can be made relatively quickly, after more testing, these influenza-specific monoclonal antibodies potentially could be used in combination with antiviral drugs to prevent or treat the flu during an influenza outbreak or pandemic.

A report describing the research, supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, appears online today in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. Wayne Marasco, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston led the research team, which included collaborators from the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, Calif., and the CDC in Atlanta.

"This is an elegant research finding that holds considerable promise for further development into a medical tool to treat and prevent seasonal as well as pandemic influenza," notes NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "In the event of an influenza pandemic, human monoclonal antibodies could be an important adjunct to antiviral drugs to contain the outbreak until a vaccine becomes available."

Using standard methods of production, initial doses of a new influenza vaccine to fight pandemic influenza would be expected to take four to six months to produce.

Key to their research, Dr. Marasco and his colleagues discovered and described the atomic structure of an obscure but genetically stable region
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Contact: Laurie K. Doepel
doepel@nih.gov
301-402-1663
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Source:Eurekalert

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