Human antibodies protect mice from avian flu

An international team of scientists, including researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, report using antibodies derived from immune cells from recent human survivors of H5N1 avian influenza to successfully treat H5N1-infected mice as well as protect them from an otherwise lethal dose of the virus.

"The possibility of an influenza pandemic, whether sparked by H5N1 or another influenza virus to which humans have no natural immunity, is of serious concern to the global health community," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "If the success of this initial study is confirmed through further laboratory and clinical trials, human monoclonal antibodies could prove to be valuable therapeutic and prophylactic public health interventions for pandemic influenza."

The research, to be published May 29 in PLoS Medicine, represents a three-way collaboration among Kanta Subbarao, M.D., and her coworkers at NIAID; Antonio Lanzavecchia, M.D., and colleagues from the Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Bellinzona, Switzerland; and Cameron Simmons, Ph.D., from the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Four Vietnamese adults diagnosed with H5N1 influenza infection between January 2004 and February 2005 agreed to donate blood soon after they had recovered from their illness. In Switzerland, Dr. Lanzavecchia extracted antibody-producing white blood cells, called memory B cells, from the Vietnamese samples and treated them with a process he developed so that they rapidly and continuously produced large amounts of antibody. Next, researchers in Dr. Subbarao's lab screened 11,000 antibody-containing samples provided by the Swiss team and found a handful able to neutralize H5N1 influenza virus. Based on these results, Dr. Lanzavecchia purified the B cells and ultimately created four monoclonal antibodies

Contact: Anne A. Oplinger
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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