Potential new flu drugs target immune response, not virus

July 21, 2014

The seriousness of disease often results from the strength of immune response, rather than with the virus, itself. Turning down that response, rather than attacking the virus, might be a better way to reduce that severity, says Juliet Morrison of the University of Washington, Seattle. She and her collaborators have now taken the first step in doing just that for the H7N9 influenza, and their work has already led to identification of six potential therapeutics for this highly virulent strain. The research is published ahead of print in the Journal of Virology.

"We set out to characterize the response to the severe disease-causing H7N9 and compare it to responses elicited by other serious flu viruses in a mouse model of infection," says Morrison. That work involved determining which genes are turned on by this infection.

"We have found that viruses that cause severe illness, like H7N9 and the infamous 1918 virus, trigger gene expression signatures that are different from the signatures seen in milder infections," says coauthor and University of Washington colleague Michael Katze, in whose laboratory the work was performed. "Importantly, we can exploit these signatures for antiviral discovery," he adds.

The investigators then used a computational approach to identify potentially therapeutic drugs. They searched databases containing of cultured human cells that had been treated with different drugs, in order to find those that were the reverse of expression profiles induced by the H7N9 flu virus, and noting the drugs that accomplished this, says Morrison. These drugs could potentially dampen the harmful host response, she says.

"Six of these drugs are FDA approved and could potentially be repurposed as H7N9 therapeutics," says Morrison. "I believe that computational biology represents an exciting new way to study viruses and to discover drugs to fight them," says Morrison. And that, she says, is what drew her to join Katze's laboratory.

The H7N9 avian influenza, which emerged in February, 2013, has caused those infected to become extremely ill, reminiscent of the 1918 influenza pandemic, the deadliest on record. The data suggests that such severe influenzas are associated with increased transcription of inflammatory cytokine genes, and reduced transcription of lipid metabolism and coagulation genes, according to the paper. Further study of these phenomena will lead to a better understanding of severe influenza, and could help investigators to identify potential therapeutics aimed at turning down the response.

Investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the United States Department of Agriculture, took part in this research.

Explore further: Novel avian influenza A virus has potential for both virulence and transmissibility in humans

More information: The manuscript can be found online at jvi.asm.org/content/early/2014 … 570-14.full.pdf+html . The final version of the article is scheduled for the September 2014 issue of the Journal of Virology.

Related Stories

Novel avian influenza A virus has potential for both virulence and transmissibility in humans

September 10, 2013
A new study has found that a novel avian-origin H7N9 influenza A virus, which has recently emerged in humans, attaches moderately or abundantly to the epithelium of both the upper and lower respiratory tracts. This pattern ...

Evolution of equine influenza led to canine offshoot which could mix with human influenza

June 19, 2014
Equine influenza viruses from the early 2000s can easily infect the respiratory tracts of dogs, while those from the 1960s are only barely able to, according to research published ahead of print in the Journal of Virology. ...

Source identification of H7N9 influenza virus causing human infections

April 25, 2013
In March 2013, a novel H7N9 influenza virus was identified in China as the etiological agent of a flu-like disease in humans, resulting in some deaths. A group of scientists, led by Professor Chen Hualan (National Avian Influenza ...

Study puts troubling traits of H7N9 avian flu virus on display

July 10, 2013
The emerging H7N9 avian influenza virus responsible for at least 37 deaths in China has qualities that could potentially spark a global outbreak of flu, according to a new study published today (July 10, 2013) in the journal ...

Genes found in nature yield 1918-like virus with pandemic potential

June 11, 2014
An international team of researchers has shown that circulating avian influenza viruses contain all the genetic ingredients necessary to underpin the emergence of a virus similar to the deadly 1918 influenza virus.

Study fingers chickens, quail, in spread of H7N9 influenza virus

March 18, 2014
Among the copious species of poultry in China, quail and chickens are the likely sources of infection of H7N9 influenza virus to humans, according to a paper published ahead of print in the Journal of Virology.

Recommended for you

Research examines lung cell turnover as risk factor and target for treatment of influenza pneumonia

July 24, 2017
Influenza is a recurring global health threat that, according to the World Health Organization, is responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths every year, most due to influenza pneumonia, or viral pneumonia. Infection with ...

Scientists propose novel therapy to lessen risk of obesity-linked disease

July 24, 2017
With obesity related illnesses a global pandemic, researchers propose in the Journal of Clinical Investigation using a blood thinner to target molecular drivers of chronic metabolic inflammation in people eating high-fat ...

Raccoon roundworm—a hidden human parasite?

July 24, 2017
The raccoon that topples your trashcan and pillages your garden may leave more than just a mess. More likely than not, it also contaminates your yard with parasites—most notably, raccoon roundworms (Baylisascaris procyonis).

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

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 ...

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.