Researchers suggest boosting body's natural flu killers

May 23, 2013

A known difficulty in fighting influenza (flu) is the ability of the flu viruses to mutate and thus evade various medications that were previously found to be effective. Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have shown recently that another, more promising, approach is to focus on improving drugs that boost the body's natural flu killer system.

Emergence of new influenza strains, such as the recent avian influenza (H5N1) and (H1N1 2009), can lead to the emergence of severe that pose a major threat to the entire . Recently, the concern regarding the emergence of such a pandemic arose when a new and deadly avian (H7N9) was discovered in China, causing the death of six people in only one month.

The body's immune system can fight . Natural killer (NK) cells, which are an essential component of this system, can recognize and eliminate influenza-virus-infected cells and inhibit the spread of the virus in the respiratory system.

But, as Ph.D. student Yotam Bar-On and Ofer Mandelboim, the Dr. Edward Crown Professor of General and Tumor Immunology at the Institute for Medical Research Israel Canada (IMRIC) of the Hebrew University Faculty of Medicine, have revealed in a paper published in Cell Reports, the influenza virus is able to escape from the NK cells activity, allowing it to spread in the respiratory system.

They show that this is accomplished by the influenza virus utilizing the of the neuraminidase protein to neutralize the NK cells' receptors that are responsible for detecting the influenza-virus-infected cells. This, in effect, neutralizes the NK cells' ability to accomplish their designated flu-killing duty.

With the aid of the neuraminidase protein, the influenza virus is free to exit from the infected cell, enabling it to infect new neighbor cells and spread in the . Anti- were developed to inhibit this spread of the virus by inhibiting the neuraminidase enzymatic activity. But, as with other, earlier anti-influenza drugs, the flu viruses are able to gain the upper hand. The extensive use of neuraminidase inhibitors has caused the emergence of new, drug-resistant influenza strains.

For example, during the spread of the swine influenza pandemic in 2009, the Health Protection Agency in the UK reported that 99% of the viruses analyzed were resistant to these inhibitors. It was shown that the virus was able to change the neuraminidase structure so the drug can no longer bind this protein, and therefore the desired inhibitory effect is lost.

But, despite this, Bar-On and Mandelboim have shown that this type of widely used drug has the effect of boosting the activity of the NK cells, enabling them to better eliminate the influenza virus. They stress, therefore, that efforts should be focused on developing effective new drugs that would maintain and enhance this NK cell activity, thereby leading to more effective elimination of the and better recovery from flu infection without the susceptibly to the changes in the neuraminidase protein structure currently brought about by mutating flu viruses.

Explore further: Fatty acids could lead to flu drug

Related Stories

Fatty acids could lead to flu drug

March 7, 2013
Flu viruses are a major cause of death and sickness around the world, and antiviral drugs currently do not protect the most seriously ill patients. A study published March 7th by Cell Press in the journal Cell reveals that ...

New flu drug stops virus in its tracks

February 21, 2013
A new class of influenza drug has been shown effective against drug-resistant strains of the flu virus, according to a study led by University of British Columbia researchers.

Bird flu expert working on vaccine that protects against multiple strains

May 10, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—As the bird flu outbreak in China worsens, a Purdue University expert is working on vaccines that offer broader protection against multiple strains of the virus.

Mutant version of H5N1 flu virus found to be more preferential to human infection

April 25, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—An international team of bio-researchers has found that a mutant strain of the H5N1 influenza virus (created in a lab) has a 200-fold preference for binding with receptors in human cells, over those found ...

Prediction of seasonal flu strains improves chances of universal vaccine

March 12, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Researchers have determined a way to predict and protect against new strains of the flu virus, in the hope of improving immunity against the disease.

Recommended for you

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

New test distinguishes Zika from similar viral infections

July 18, 2017
A new test is the best-to-date in differentiating Zika virus infections from infections caused by similar viruses. The antibody-based assay, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Humabs BioMed, a private biotechnology ...

'Superbugs' study reveals complex picture of E. coli bloodstream infections

July 18, 2017
The first large-scale genetic study of Escherichia coli (E. coli) cultured from patients with bloodstream infections in England showed that drug resistant 'superbugs' are not always out-competing other strains. Research by ...

Ebola virus can persist in monkeys that survived disease, even after symptoms disappear

July 17, 2017
Ebola virus infection can be detected in rhesus monkeys that survive the disease and no longer show symptoms, according to research published by Army scientists in today's online edition of the journal Nature Microbiology. ...

Mountain gorillas have herpes virus similar to that found in humans

July 13, 2017
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have detected a herpes virus in wild mountain gorillas that is very similar to the Epstein-Barr virus in humans, according to a study published today in the journal Scientific ...

Vaccines protect fetuses from Zika infection, mouse study shows

July 13, 2017
Zika virus causes a mild, flu-like illness in most people, but to pregnant women the dangers are potentially much worse. The virus can reduce fetal growth, cause microcephaly, an abnormally small head associated with brain ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.