Powerful Flu-Fighting Antibody Discovered

A recently discovered antibody shows promise in fighting off a wide variety of flu viruses and could lead to the development of a universal flu vaccine.

In a paper published online in the journal Science, researchers have announced the discovery of an antibody called FI6 that shows promise in fighting off a wide variety of flu viruses and could lead to the development of a universal flu vaccine. The research was a collaboration among Humabs BioMed SA, a privately owned company based in Switzerland; the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Switzerland; and the UK Medical Research Council.

The researchers report that FI6 is the first antibody that effectively neutralizes all strains of influenza A, which is responsible for global flu pandemics. The antibody works by targeting a protein called hemagglutinin that is found on the surface of the flu virus. Isolating this sort of antibody has tended to be difficult, but the researchers managed to culture plasma cells and search through thousands of them to find those that produced an antibody with the desired abilities.

FI6 has been found to protect mice and ferrets against infection from infection by influenza A. If it has the same effect in humans, the antibody could be used as an emergency treatment for those infected with flu. In order to work as a preventive measure, a vaccine would have to be developed that triggered the body’s own immune system to produce FI6 antibodies—a goal that is likely years off.

Around the Web

A Neutralizing Antibody Selected from Plasma Cells That Binds to Group 1 and Group 2 Influenza A Hemagglutinins (abstract) [Science]