Washington, February 23 (ANI): A potential new flu vaccine to cure almost all kinds of the disease, including bird flue, may be available in just two years because scientists have identified 10 antibodies that target an "Achilles heel" in most forms of influenza.
The researchers have revealed that the antibodies they have discovered target the weak spot in the "neck" of the virus, just below its peanut-shaped "head" which stops it shape-changing and infecting cells.
This finding attains significance because one of the reasons why scientists have failed to find a vaccine to prevent even seasonal flu is that the virus constantly mutates in a bid to fool the immune system.
During a study on mice, the researchers found the antibodies to protect against easily-transmitted H5N1 even when given to the animals three days after they were infected, and to keep them immune for up to three weeks.
That observation, according to them, attained significance because it is feared that millions of lives would be lost from a pandemic before a vaccine is available.
The researchers say that using the antibodies, which can be made quickly and in large numbers into a single dose treatment, in combination with anti-viral drugs may help contain the virus during the four to six months it would take to create enough quantities for a suitable vaccine.
"This is an elegant research finding that holds considerable promise for further development into a medical tool to treat and prevent seasonal as well as pandemic influenza," Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health, which supported the research project.
"In the event of an influenza pandemic, human monoclonal antibodies could be an important adjunct to antiviral drugs to contain the outbreak until a vaccine becomes available," he added.
A research article on the breakthrough discovery has been published in the online edition of the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology. (ANI)