Preventing flu with an antibody-plus-Tamiflu universal vaccine

Questex LLC | January 28, 2019

The problem with the influenza virus is it can rapidly mutate into strains that are resistant to the yearly vaccine. That has made the search for a universal vaccine all the more challenging. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have found a new clue to providing broad-based protection against the flu—and it rests partly on Roche’s FDA-approved remedy Tamiflu.
Using mouse models of flu, the NIAID team tested an antibody that recognizes a protein called hemagglutinin, which sits on the surface of the virus and helps it spread to healthy cells. Current flu vaccines work by recognizing the head of hemagglutinin and blocking its ability to shuttle the virus into cells. Problem is, that’s the region that can rapidly mutate to escape the vaccine. So the researchers used an antibody that targets the stem domain of the protein instead—a region that’s far more resistant to mutations. When they combined the antibody with Tamiflu, which works by inhibiting another flu surface protein called neuraminidase, the mice were better able to survive a severe viral infection. The researchers reported their discovery in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

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