Following closely on the heels of studies about the possibility of mammal-to-mammal H5N1 transmission and the death toll of the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, multiple animal studies in recent weeks have shed new light on how the immune system can be used to fight influenza.
Introducing the synthetic protein EP67 into the immune systems of mice within 24 hours of flu exposure caused those immune systems to fight the virus almost immediately, researchers reported July 6 in PLoS ONE [LINK]. “EP67 could potentially be a therapeutic that someone would take when they know they’ve been exposed that would help the body fight off the virus before you get sick,” said lead author Joy Phillips, PhD, of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
PA-X, a gene within influenza A virus, also reduced the impact of flu infection in mice, reported Brett Jagger, of the NIH, and colleagues in a study published online June 28 by Science. Loss of PA-X expression led to increases in the mice’s inflammatory, apoptotic, and T-lymphocyte signaling pathways, they found. “The flu virus has a very, very small genome—just 12 genes,” noted study coauthor Andrew Firth, PhD, of the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. “Finding a new gene makes a pretty significant change to our understanding of this virus.”
An immunization experiment found that infecting mice with higher doses of H3N2 caused better generation of respiratory CD8 T cells when they were re-infected 60 days later, said Isabelle Marois, FMSS, of Université de Sherbrooke, Canada, and colleagues in the July Journal of Leukocyte Biology. “Hopefully, the findings of our study will help to develop better vaccine preparations that will be more effective in inducing protective cellular immunity to fight against infectious pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi,” said coauthor Martin V. Richter, PhD, of Université de Sherbrooke.
Readers are invited to share their thoughts on current flu research. Are you optimistic that the above-mentioned studies will lead to better treatments and vaccinations for humans? Do you regard any other areas of influenza investigation as more promising?