Two teams of researchers from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and San Diego State University have discovered a powerful synthetic protein that can fight the effects of the flu virus. Tests in mice have shown that if the protein, known as EP67, is administered within 24 hours of exposure to the flu virus, many of the negative symptoms lose their effectiveness against the body’s immune system.
When mice contract the flu virus they normally lose up to 20 percent of their total body weight. However, the mice treated with the EP67 protein only lost an average of 6 percent. The treated group of mice also didn’t die of the virus, whereas some of the mice left untreated did, which is common in mice.
EP67 targets the hosts immune system, not the virus itself and therefore experts believe the protein will vaccinate against all form of the flu virus. “This protection is not limited to a single strain of influenza, as is the case for the vaccine, but should protect against all strains of influenza A or influenza B.” Said the lead author of the new publication, Joy Phillips.
The protein hasn’t been tested on more potent strains of influenza, such as the well known H1N1 virus, but because of the way EP67 works, scientists believe there is a good chance it will. It has also been discovered that the protein works in other species of animal, from primates to chickens.
Clinical usage is thought to be some way off, but if approved could be used as an emergency vaccination for aid workers, medical staff and also in the veterinary sector. EP67 could also have a number of other uses. Phillips went on to explain “Work focused on bioterrorism often stresses protection against human pathogens, but protecting the world food supply is another extremely important concern.”
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