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Imperial researchers show novel flu treatment eliminates symptoms in mice

Imperial College London researchers report today in the Journal of Experimental Medicine that they have developed a novel strategy for effectively treating the symptoms of the most deadly type of flu.

Working with influenza A virus, they show in mice that their novel treatment eliminates symptoms by reducing the response of active T white blood cells by a third.

Flu A is the type of influenza responsible for pandemics such as the 1919 outbreak of 'Spanish flu', which globally killed more than 20 million people.

Unlike current attempts to prevent or treat flu, which rely on either yearly vaccinations that try to predict how the virus might mutate, or anti viral drugs that must be administered as soon as there is contact with the virus, this new treatment can be given after symptoms present.

Dr Tracy Hussell of Imperial's Centre for Molecular Microbiology and Infection and senior author of the paper, says:

"Three times in recent history the flu virus has evolved from a disease characterised by coughs and sneezes to a world killer. The recent SARS epidemic highlights how quickly a deadly virus can spread in modern society and we are long overdue for the next flu pandemic. The sobering reality is that influenza is one of the grand masters at evading human immune response.

"During flu infection the immune system has an 'all hands on deck' attitude to the viral assault. But it's this that causes most of the damage. The exaggerated immune response produces inflammatory molecules that lead to what's known as a 'cytokine storm'. Essentially too many cells clog up the airways and prevent efficient transfer of oxygen into the bloodstream.

"By selectively reducing this cellular load we've shown it's possible to eliminate clinical symptoms whilst effectively tackling and clearing the infection."

The body has two major classes of white blood cells, T and B lymphocytes. While B cells produce tailor-made antibodies
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Contact: Judith Moore
j.h.moore@imperial.ac.uk
44-207-594-6702
Imperial College London
20-Oct-2003


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