Antibodies from hen eggs may fight H5N1

Antibodies found in common eggs laid by hens vaccinated against the H5N1 virus can possibly prevent an H5N1 pandemic, new research has shown.

Researchers say that this new finding raises hopes that the same principle can be applied to the current H1N1 influenza pandemic.

A research team led by Dr. Huan Huu Nguyen at the International Vaccine Institute and a team at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested the avian antibodies' efficacy against both influenza viruses H5N1 and H1N1 in mice.

Before this discovery, chicken antibodies that have been found in egg yolk have mainly been used in the treatment of gastrointestinal infections.

“Our tests show proof-of-concept that antibodies, or the antiviral proteins 'immunoglobulins Y,' found in consumable eggs laid by vaccinated hens may be an affordable, safe, and effective alternative for the control of influenza outbreaks, including the current H1N1 pandemic,” Dr. Nguyen told the Kolkata Observer.

H5N1-specific antibodies were isolated by the researchers from eggs sold in Vietnam. Hens in Vietnam are vaccinated against the H5N1 pathogen. The eggs were then tested against infections with H5N1 and related H5N2 strains in mice.

The egg yolk antibodies, when delivered nasally prior to infection, prevented infection. When administered post-infection, the antibodies reduced the severity of the infection and allowed the mice to recover from the disease.