Research led by Professor Nigel Dimmock at the University of Warwick is developing an entirely new method of protecting against flu. This has been shown to protect animals against various strains of flu, and could offer protection against the full range of influenza A infections, including H5N1 and any new pandemic or epidemic strains infecting humans. The 'protecting virus' provides instant protection, and completely prevents flu symptoms developing by slowing influenza infection rates to such an extent that the harmful infection becomes a vaccine against that very form of influenza. It can also counter an actual infection and offer protection if given up to 24 hours after first infection (and possibly longer).
Existing vaccination methods depend on stimulating the body's immune system, so that white blood cells produce antibodies that attach to the surface of the virus and start the process of killing it. This works well for many diseases, such as smallpox, polio and measles, but is much less effective with influenza, as the coat of the flu virus is continually changing. Vaccination against one strain of flu, for instance H3N2, is totally ineffective against another, such as H5N1. This is especially problematic when a new pandemic strain emerges, as all existing vaccines are likely to be totally ineffective.
Professor Dimmock has spent more than two decades investigating an entirely new method, that uses a 'protecting virus'. This has now been shown to provide instant protection against all flu symptoms and to slow the development of an influenza infection to such an extent that harmful infections are transformed into a vaccine against that form of influenza.
'Protecting virus' has a significant alteration to one of the virus's genes. The genetic material of a flu virus consists of 8 individual segments of single stranded RNA. Professor Dimmock's protecting influenza virus has a huge but specific deletion of around 80% of th
Contact: Peter Dunn
University of Warwick