THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

Research shows boosting natural flu resistance may counter flu mutations

Researchers at Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced on Thursday that handling virus mutations by improving drugs that boost the body's natural flu resistance may be more effective than creating unique vaccines for each mutation.

Recent scares with mutated influenza viruses, such as the avian flu and the swine flu, have worried scientists and other officials. The quick mutation of influenza leaves the body unable to defend itself and makes it difficult for companies to create a vaccine quick enough to stem off a potential epidemic.

The body has a natural group of cells called the natural killer cells, which are capable of finding and killing strains of influenza and other viruses before they are able to spread throughout the body and do too much damage. The NK cells, however, have trouble recognizing and destroying mutated versions of influenza.

The researchers found that influenza cells are able to utilize the enzymatic activity of the neuraminidase protein to neutralize the NK cells' receptors that are responsible for finding influenza-virus-infected cells, which makes the influenza cells able to spread throughout the body.

Anti-flu drugs were shown to be highly ineffective against these mutated influenza cells. They were shown to boost the activity of the NK cells, however, giving these cells a better chance of recognizing and destroying the influenza viruses.

The researchers stressed that efforts should be made to make drugs capable of boosting the NK cells' activity.