Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla say they, too, have discovered an antibody that appears to target the Achilles’ heel of a wide range of influenza viruses, including bird flu and other deadly strains.
Influenza is especially difficult to combat since the virus cloaks itself in lollipop-shaped proteins which mutate regularly. The antibody, known as CR6261, works by latching onto the “stick” of the lollipop to neutralize it.
In the new research paper, scientists from Scripps worked with Dutch biotech company Crucell. Scientists with Crucell had previously demonstrated in lab experiments that the antibody can neutralize seasonal flu viruses.
“This is very exciting because it marks the first step toward the Holy Grail of influenza vaccinology , the development of a durable and cross-protective universal influenza virus vaccine,” said Scripps professor and senior investigator Ian Wilson in a statement.
The team’s findings were published online Feb. 26 in an advance copy of the journal Science, called Science Express.
On Feb. 22, a team comprised of Burnham Institute for Medical Research scientists said it had discovered 10 antibodies active against lethal doses of the flu virus in mice.
The discoveries have researchers optimistic about a new approach to combating the flu, which hospitalizes more than 200,000 people a year and kills about 36,000.