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Influenza Virus also Protects Against H5N1

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The other protein is hemagglutinin, or "H." The variations of "H" and "N" found on viruses are numbered; and in the case of the avian influenza virus, considered by experts to be a major threat to humans, the proteins are designated H5 and N1.

"The presence of the N1 protein in both the human flu and the bird flu virus helped to convince us to look for evidence that immunity to human strains of flu might also trigger some antibody response to H5N1," Webby said.

The investigators first vaccinated mice using DNA that coded for N1 from a human influenza virus. This ensured that the mice would make only N1 and not one of the hemagglutinin proteins, thus eliminating any chance of confusion over whether their immune systems were vaccinated against hemagglutinin, neuraminidase or both.

The team showed that all 11 vaccinated mice survived infection with a virus genetically modified to make human N1, while half of another group of vaccinated mice survived infection with H5N1 itself.

The St. Jude investigators then showed that the antibodies made against N1 protected the mice against the challenges. Specifically, the team collected the serum, the antibody-containing liquid of blood, from vaccinated mice and injected it into unvaccinated mice. Six of 13 mice getting the antibody-containing serum survived infection with the H5N1 virus, indicating that antibodies against human N1 from the vaccinated mice offered some protection against H5N1.

Finally, the team tested samples of serum from human volunteers to see if they contained antibodies that reacted against the N1 of H5N1. Sera from 31 of 38 volunteers reacted against the N1 of the human influenza virus H1N1, while serum from nine of these individuals showed low activity against the N1 protein of an H5N1 from Vietnam. It was not clear whether these individuals had developed antibodies from previous seasonal vaccination or from exposure to influenza vir
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