Researchers have generated a new llama-based anti-flu antibody that demonstrates long-lasting and universal protection from a wide variety of influenza A and B viruses, including avian-borne strains like H1N1.
Llamas, better known for its wool, have been used to produce a new antibody therapy that has the potential to work against all types of flu, including new pandemics.
Researchers at the Scripps Institute in California infected llamas with multiple types of flu to provoke an immune response, the BBC reported.
They then scoured llama blood for the most potent antibodies that could attack a wide range of flu strains.
They picked four, and then set about building their own synthetic antibody that used elements from each. It was tested on mice, which were given deadly doses of influenza.
“It’s very effective, there were 60 different viruses that were used in the challenge and only one wasn’t neutralised and that’s a virus that doesn’t infect humans,” Ian Wilson, one of the researchers said.
“The goal here is to provide something that would work from season to season, and also protect you from possible pandemics should they emerge.”
For the study, published in the journal Science, the team tried two approaches to give the animals the antibody. The first was to inject them with the antibodies, and the second was a type of gene therapy.
The genetic instructions for making the antibody were packaged up inside a harmless virus, which was then used to infect the noses of mice.
The cells in the linings of the nose then started making the flu-killing antibody.
An additional advantage of this approach is that it could work in the elderly, the report said.
“Having a treatment that can work across a range of different strains of virus is highly sought after. It’s the Holy Grail of influenza,” said Jonathan Ball, Professor at the University of Nottingham.