WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – An antibody being developed by a Dutch drug company chokes off both seasonal flu and the H5N1 avian flu virus and might offer a way to develop better treatments and vaccines, researchers reported yesterday.
Crucell NV’s antibody, a naturally occurring immune system protein, grabs onto a hidden part of flu viruses, stopping them from infecting cells, they reported in the journal Science.
It is the second report in a week to find antibodies that can interfere with a range of strains of flu — one of the hardest viruses to fight because it mutates so much.
“This is very exciting because it marks the first step toward the Holy Grail of influenza vaccinology — the development of a durable and cross-protective universal influenza virus vaccine,” Ian Wilson, a researcher at he Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, who helped lead the research, said in a statement.
“Such a flu vaccine could be given to a person just once and act as a universal protectant for most subtypes of influenza, even against pandemic viruses.”
On Sunday, another research team said they had found a batch of antibodies that do something similar.
Flu vaccines and drugs focus on proteins found on the surface of the flu virus called hemagglutinin and neuraminidase, which give influenza A viruses their names, as in H5N1 or H1N1.
Hemagglutinin is a lollipop-shaped structure with a big, round head. This head is so large that it attracts most of the immune system antibodies — which then slip off when it mutates.