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Single antibody found to both prevent and cure flu

Man sick in bed with flu iStock

A single antibody has been found to prevent the influenza virus from taking hold of host cells, as well as cure animals that are already infected, UT San Diego reported.

Researchers from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., examined thousands of proteins in order to identify the antibody.  After analyzing the influenza virus in its 3-D crystalline form, the scientists discovered the antibody attacks a structure of the virus that is used to take hold of healthy cells.

Study author Ian Wilson, a professor of structural biology at Scripps, said this discovery of focused binding has “never been seen before.”

“It gives us some good idea about designs for vaccines and therapies,” Wilson said.

The study involved collecting bone marrow from patients exposed to different strains of the influenza virus.  According to UT San Diego, bone marrow essentially acts as a storage facility for all the antibodies a person’s body has ever produced, so the study’s researchers knew the antibody they were looking for would be there.

Next, the researchers created a catalogue of billions of flu antibodies, allowing them to pinpoint Co5 – an antibody able to bind to influenza A viruses.  Added to petri dishes of healthy cells and influenza A, Co5 stopped the cells from getting infected.  Mice studies echoed the same results, with Co5 preventing influenza in mice.  Also, when mice were given Co5 after having contracted the flu, all were cured.

"Clearly, the holy grail is a universal flu vaccine, and this is another important step toward that,” Wilson said

Click for more from UT San Diego.