“I certainly believe that a therapy for all kinds of influenza may be within our grasp,” study researcher Robert Liddington, DPhil, director of infectious diseases at the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, Calif., said at a news conference announcing the finding.
The researchers could not make a flu in the lab that was resistant to new monoclonal antibodies. They believe that is only a small chance that viruses could mutate in such a way that the new treatment would become obsolete.
This breakthrough medication was a joint venture from labs at Burnham Institute, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and the CDC in Atlanta.
According to Wayne Marasco, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, these new monoclonal antibodies could quickly be turned into a wide range of drugs.
“We hope these antibodies are in clinical trials during the 2011-2012 flu season — maybe earlier,” Marasco said. “This really is an important advance in the field of antiviral therapy. The possibility of having a universal therapy for flu is made more real and possible because of these discoveries.”
In the lab mice infected with the deadliest strain of Avian Flu were protected even when they got their first dose three days after infection with what should have been a lethal dose of the virus.
It may be possible to use this new technology in making an univerisal flu vaccine. That vaccine though may not be as important as the medicine cocktail researchers believe.
“People tend to emphasize vaccines as the Holy Grail of flu, as it were. But these antiviral antibodies are very effective, and can be very effective in a pandemic setting — they just need to be used judiciously,” Liddington said. “These antivirals are ready to go and should be effective just as they are, as soon as they get through FDA approval and are stockpiled in large enough amounts in metropolitan areas where an outbreak might begin.”
The findings of this new discovery are reported in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.