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Research: Fight flu viruses more effectively

This text complies with the specifications of medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been reviewed by medical doctors and physicians.

The Spanish flu killed countless people. Image: abhijith3747 – fotolia

New attack points against influenza viruses discovered?

The limited efficacy of the flu vaccine used and the lack of drug treatment options became alarmingly apparent during this year’s flu season. Hundreds of thousands fell ill and many people succumbed to the consequences of the infection. Now scientists at the University of Zurich (UZH) have discovered a new mechanism that could potentially be used to develop better flu vaccines and more effective drugs.

The UZH research team has discovered, in cooperation with American scientists, a new mechanism by which antibodies in the lungs interact with influenza viruses. The hitherto unknown type of attachment opens up new possibilities for developing better vaccines and effective drugs against influenza, according to the UZH communication. The researchers published their results in the journal “Cell Reports”.
Scientists have discovered a hitherto unknown mechanism by which antibodies against influenza viruses act. (Image: abhijith3747 /

Every year millions of flu infections?

Every year, millions of people worldwide suffer from the flu, with most people recovering after a few days, according to researchers worldwide. But according to estimates by the WHO, there are also 250,000 to 500,000 deaths a year from a flu infection. Since there are hardly any effective treatments, the focus is concentrated medicine so far on the flu vaccine. However, these uncertainties also arise because influenza viruses and thus also the viral strains circulating around the world are constantly changing. “The vaccines must therefore – based on forecasts – every year be made new,” explain the experts.

Which types of antibodies are most effective??

In search of new ways to fight influenza viruses, scientists have tested in cell cultures which types of antibodies work best against influenza viruses. The antibodies of the subtype IgA1 were the most effective type. “IgA-type antibodies, which are common on mucosal surfaces, can protect us against infection in two different ways,” explains Lars Hangartner, a former professor at UZH’s Institute of Medical Virology and head of the study.

Antibodies of the subtype IgA1 particularly effective?

The experts explain that influenza vaccines work by presenting antigens to the immune system. Thanks to this, the immune system can learn to recognize influenza viruses and produce antibodies against them, as soon as these viruses are detected. However, today’s flu vaccines stimulate the formation of other types of antibodies – namely immunoglobulins G (IgG). However, in the tests of various types in cell cultures, the antibodies of the subtype IgA1, which have a special tip of sialic acid at one end of the molecule, have proven to be the most effective.

Two mechanisms of antibodies?

The special tip of these antibodies block that part of the flu virus “that allows it to bind to and infect the cells,” reports UZH. This suggests that IgA1 antibodies have two types of immune activity – the acquired immunity, which allows the antibodies with their classical binding sites to specifically recognize the pathogens, and the innate immunity to the sialic acids at the other end of the molecule that viruses carry rather unspecific and broadly attacked.

Develop new antibodies?

According to the researchers, the IgA antibodies thus attach themselves simultaneously to two sites of the influenza virus. According to the study leader, the findings should help to improve the effect of flu vaccines and medicines in the future. However, antibodies of the type IgA are difficult to handle, which is why new antibodies should be developed that are easier to produce and test in mice, according to Hangartner. The researchers are therefore pursuing the idea of ​​grafting the tip of the IgA1 on an antibody of the IgG type, which are much easier to handle. “This would combine the advantages of the two types of antibodies,” emphasizes the expert. Such a molecule would be more effective and resistant and should be very useful for the fight against influenza, emphasizes the study leader. Thanks to the strong binding of the antibodies to the viruses, even small amounts would be enough to provide effective protection, the expert continued. (Fp)

Important NOTE:
This article contains only general information and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.

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