Researchers reveal flu-fighting capability of immune component

Researchers at the University of Georgia have determined that a well-known immune system component is involved in the flu-fighting process.

Kimberly Klonowski, an assistant professor of cellular biology at the university, and her colleagues determined that IL-15, a cell-signaling protein, reduced peak viral load in influenza-infected mice by nearly three times, Online Athens reports.

"We gave the IL-15 intranasally and found that it enhanced the movement of the immune system's natural killer cells and CD8 T cells into the lung airways," Klonowski said, according to Online Athens. "As a result, the animals that received it cleared the virus faster than the control group."

Klonowski said the protein only seemed effective against influenza for a defined time immediately after infection. The IL-15 protein has been tested as an adjuvant for other viral diseases, including hepatitis B, monkey pox and HIV. Klonowski and her team hypothesized that the protein could play a role in influenza fighting after noticing concentrations of the protein surging in response to flu. In the team's experiment, the presence of IL-15 increased the number of natural killer cells by three times more than the control group.

"Even though this paper deals with natural killer cells, we are still really focused on the CD8 T cells, because they're the cell population that is required for complete viral clearance," Klonowski said, according to Online Athens.