Promising new bird flu compound developed

Promising new bird flu compound
Promising new bird flu compound | Courtesy of

Researchers have developed a promising new bird flu compound that has already proved 100 percent effective in preventing lab models from contracting the disease.

H5N1, also known as the bird flu, killed millions of ducks and chickens in 2003 and has also infected over 650 people. The virus has a 60 percent mortality rate in humans, making it a serious public health concern.

Even though the virus has not yet developed a transmission method from humans to humans, researchers have already detected mutations that may make human-to-human transmissions possible and could result in a pandemic. These viruses also mutate so rapidly that it is difficult to develop treatments, so vaccines need to be developed to coordinate with every virus. This takes approximately six months after a virus has surfaced.

Creating a dual-specific antibody makes it more difficult for the virus to become drug-resistant. Just one dose of the dual antibody protected laboratory models against lethal bird flu viruses.

"Our solution was to make a 'dual-specific' antibody by combining two different antibodies that attach strongly to H5N1 viruses into a single antibody-like molecule," Richard Webby with the Infectious Diseases Department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and the director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza Viruses in Lower Animals and Birds said.

Further information can be found in the Journal of Virology.