Opening a new front in the war against flu, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have reported the discovery of a novel compound that confers broad protection against influenza viruses, including deadly avian influenza.
The new work, reported online this week (Oct. 4, 2006) in the Journal of Virology, describes the discovery of a peptide — a small protein molecule — that effectively blocks the influenza virus (including bird flu) from attaching to and entering the cells of its host, thwarting its ability to replicate and infect more cells.
The new finding is important because it could make available a class of new antiviral drugs to prevent and treat influenza at a time when fear of a global pandemic is heightened and available antiviral drugs are losing their potency.
“This gives us another tool (against bird flu),” says Stacey Schultz-Cherry, a UW-Madison
The new drug, which was tested on cells in culture and in mice, conferred complete protection against infection and was highly effective in treating animals in the early stages of infection. Untreated infected animals typically died within a week. All of the infected animals treated with small doses of the drug at the onset of symptoms survived.
“Pretreatment with (the peptide) provided 100 percent protection against numerous subtypes (of flu), including the highly pathogenic H5N1 viruses (bird flu)” according to the Journal of Virology report.