FLU NEWS SCAN: Multi-strain flu antibody, Aussie flu increase

Jul 8, 2011

Group identifies antibody effective against several flu strains
Preliminary studies in cell culture and mice conducted by researchers at Scripps Research and the Dutch pharmaceutical company Crucell have identified an antibody effective against a broad array of group 2 influenza A strains, including H3 and H7, both of which have been transmitted to humans. The group said in a press release yesterday that the findings, coupled with their 2009 identification of a similar antibody effective against group 1 influenza A strains, may one day offer a combination therapy effective against a wide range of strains. Group 1 strains include H1N1, which caused pandemics in 1918 and 2009, as well as H5, including H5N1 avian flu. "Together this antibody and the one we reported in 2009 have the potential to protect people against most influenza viruses," said lead author Ian Wilson of Scripps. The newly identified antibody, CR8020, interferes with a binding site, or epitope, on the stalk of the flu virus's mushroom-shaped hemagglutinin protein, a portion of the virus that varies little among strains (as opposed to the head, which varies widely and is the target of current vaccines). Wilson said a combination of CR8020 and the earlier antibody, CR6261, "would mainly be useful as a fast-acting therapy against epidemic or pandemic influenza viruses." He said the ultimate goal would be a universal vaccine that elicits a robust, long-term antibody response against multiple stalk epitopes, "but developing that is going to be a challenging task."
Jul 7 Science abstract
Jul 7 Scripps press release

Australian flu season picks up pace
Flu activity in Australia is increasing, with the biggest spikes in South Australia, Queensland, and New South Wales states, the country's Department of Health and Ageing said in its most recent surveillance report. The 2009 H1N1 virus is the most frequently detected strain, and it is circulating alongside influenza B. Antigenic analysis so far shows that Australia's circulating flu strains are a close match with the ones included in the seasonal flu vaccine. Queensland Health is reporting a sixfold increase in flu cases in Brisbane compared with the same time period last year, the Brisbane Times reported today. Dr Gino Pecoraro, president of the Queensland chapter of the Australian Medical Association, said the early and large surge in the state's flu cases could relate to the area's unseasonable weather, according to the report.
Australian influenza report for the week ending Jun 24
Jul 9 Brisbane Times story

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