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Friday 25th May 2018

Bird flu antibodies found

4th June 2007

Researchers have successfully treated mice infected with the H5N1 avian influenza virus with antibodies derived from humans who survived the disease.


The international team of scientists said the findings would provide a promising basis for the search for a bird flu vaccine or treatment of the disease, should the virus become easily transmissible between people.

But further trials were needed, according to researcher Anthony S. Fauci of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

If these findings were confirmed in further studies, however, human monoclonal antibodies could prove to be valuable therapeutic and prophylactic public health interventions for pandemic influenza, Fauci said.

Published May 29 in the online journal PLoS Medicine, the research was carried out by Kanta Subbarao and colleagues at NIAID; Antonio Lanzavecchia and colleagues from the Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Bellinzona, Switzerland; and Cameron Simmons of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

The antibodies were derived from four Vietnamese adults who survived an H5N1 influenza infection between January 2004 and February 2005. The samples were taken with the consent of the patients shortly after they recovered.

The antibodies were extracted by Lanzavecchia in Switzerland using a process he developed, and screened at NIAID for any antibodies able to neutralise H5N1. Eventually, four monoclonal antibodies were produced in Switzerland and used to treat mice infected with a severe form of avian influenza. Two of the antibodies produced survival rates of 100% and 80% respectively, while all the mice without the antibodies died within a week.

During the flu pandemic of 1918-19 serum from recovered flu patients was given to new victims, often saving lives.

The findings show that human antibodies with potent H5N1 influenza virus neutralizing ability can be rapidly generated from the blood of convalescent patients and that they work well to both treat H5N1 infection and prevent death from such infection in mice.

The researchers plan to produce more antibodies with a view towards eventual clinical trials in humans.

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